Several species of mushroom from the Cantharellus genus are known under the popular name chanterelle. There are various types of chanterelle; usually they are shaped like funnels, with a meaty texture and either a white, yellow or orange color. They are some of the most commonly consumed wild mushrooms, due to their taste with hints of pepper and the aroma that resembles apricots. Most varieties have ridges under the cap, with a length almost all the way down to the stipe.
Cantharellus cibarius, or the chanterelle, is one of the tastiest of the wild mushrooms collected for human consumption. The name Cantharellus comes from ancient Greek kantharos, which designated a special type drinking vessel (or sometimes a chalice or bowl) and became the Latin word cantharus. It is found in woods in various forms, either individually or in clusters or groups. In ancient Greece, a kantharos was a clay drinking vessel but the same name was also given to a scarab beetle that had the same general shape.
When collecting chanterelles from the wild, there is a small risk to confuse them with the poisonous jack-o-lantern mushrooms. These are always found in dense clusters and their color is orange, similar to a pumpkin, with sharp edged gills. They can also be confused with another species known as the false chanterelle. Unlike the real chanterelle, these don't have a uniform color and show orange or brown areas, with thinner stems and close sharp edged gills. These false chanterelles lack the pleasant aroma of Cantharellus cibarius. Sources disagree if the false chanterelle is poisonous or just not tasty but it shouldn't be consumed anyway.
The chanterelle is a typical forest fungus that can be found near hardwood trees such as conifers or oaks. It has been collected as food by humans for thousands of years from the forests of Europe, North America, Africa and Asia. It can only grow close to trees and is never found isolated on fields or growing on decayed wood pieces. Like most mushrooms, it enjoys wet soils. However, it can't develop in marshes or swamps. The chanterelle is known for the delicate fragrance of the flesh, resembling apricots, and the slight pepper-like taste. The flesh is white and firm, with a thick structure. The months between June and October are the best to collect chanterelle mushrooms from the woods. They are extremely popular because of their taste, which makes them a great addition in a variety of dishes. The chanterelle mushroom is abundant in some forests.
This species of mushroom is easy to identify due to the distinctive cap, shaped like a funnel. It has a wavy and irregular edge and a diameter of maximum 10 cm. It is usually yellow in color but might appear white when it is covered by a fine bloom.
The base of the cap has wrinkled veins on its surface, which is the most important feature that distinguished it from the false chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca). These veins are very visible because they are thick and descend on the stem. They fork into several smaller veins on the cap but tend to be straight when located on the stem.
The stem is usually short, no longer than 2 cm, and it's not easy to distinguish where it merges with the cap. It tends to have the same yellow color as the cap. The stems rarely join together even when the mushrooms grow in clusters but in this case they are often heavily curved.
Chanterelle mushrooms are very rich in iron and a single one provides 1.87 mg, which represents almost one quarter of the entire daily recommended value. This essential mineral plays many major roles in the body, for example in the development of the brain. Iron is needed to allow our blood to transport oxygen. Since 20% of the blood oxygen ends up in the brain, a good supply of iron is critical for a healthy brain function. More oxygen allows the brain to build new neural links and bypass any damage caused by Alzheimer's disease or dementia. A diet rich in iron will keep your brain in top shape for longer and boost cognitive activity overall.
The chanterelle mushroom also supplies a good amount of copper, another key mineral that is involved in multiple body functions. It is required for growth, so kids must get an adequate amount every day. Copper tends to be a lot more effective when sourced from natural foods instead of chemical supplements. It is especially needed for the health of the nervous and cardiovascular functions, as well as the durability of the skeletal system.
Chanterelle mushrooms provide a large amount of vitamin D, which is normally produced inside the body and can rarely be found in food sources. This vitamin plays a major role in the prevention of type 2 diabetes, a very serious metabolic condition that leads to other problems including heart diseases, kidney failure, nerve damage and even blindness. Vitamin D is synthetized by our body after direct exposure to sunlight and modern research suggests that any increase in its level greatly reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, even in sensitive people.
Several studies have found that a regular supply of vitamin D can boost multiple functions related to the prevention of diabetes, such as better insulin sensitivity, decreased overall inflammation and an improved beta cell function. A single cup of these mushrooms provides 2.9 µg of vitamin D, or almost 20% of the daily recommended amount. Including it in your diet can significantly reduce the risk of developing this disease.
The chanterelle mushrooms are also some of the best natural food sources for vitamin B3. Also known as niacinamide, this bioactive compound is one of the secrets of healthy skin and can even be applied externally in order to treat acne. Eating chanterelle mushrooms is way more effective than using vitamin complex supplements for this purpose.
Niacin is very effective against more serious skin problems like bullous pemphigoid and granuloma annulare and provides a general reduction in skin redness, inflammation, irritation and flare ups. It can protect your skin from a wide range of conditions started by inflammation, which cause persistent burns and infections. Choosing a diet rich in vitamin B3 can do wonders for your skin and keep it healthy without any cosmetic treatments.
Chanterelle mushrooms are also rich in vitamin B5, another key part of the B vitamin complex. This vitamin is needed for a healthy nervous function and can prevent depression, stress, anxiety and other similar issues. It acts at the layer of hormones and balances their levels, curing the root cause for these symptoms. A single cup of mushrooms supplies a dose of 0.58 mg of vitamin B5, or almost 12% of the daily recommended intake.
Another essential vitamin in chanterelles is riboflavin. The lack of this vitamin tends to be quite obvious, since it causes severe headaches and persistent migraines. Including chanterelle mushrooms in your daily diet is one of the ways to make sure this doesn't happen. Increasing the supply of riboflavin has an immediate impact on headaches and reduces their intensity. This effect has been validated by modern research. In one study, a group of patients were given riboflavin in doses between 200 and 400 mg and reported less migraines than the test group that took only a placebo. As a result, including chanterelles in your diet can be a great choice if you suffer from headaches.
Chanterelle mushrooms are also some of the best vegetal sources of proteins. These building blocks of the body are usually supplied from meat, since plants generally offer poor quality proteins. Chanterelle mushrooms are an exception and can be of great help after physical exercises, since muscle tissues become damaged and need proteins to repair and grow in mass. Proteins are not the only nutrients required, but a proper supply can boost the recovery of muscles and decrease the pain after a period of sustained activity. For best results, consume mushrooms both before and after you exercise.
Proteins are not needed only for increasing and maintaining your muscle mass. They are the main structural components of most body tissues and especially required for tendons and ligaments. The muscles can even decrease in mass very quickly, if your diet doesn't provide enough proteins and amino acids, as the body destroys muscle fibers and burns them for energy.
Lentinan is a rare bioactive compound found in Cantharellus cibarius. Studies have proven that it is a very strong antioxidant capable of destroying some of the chemicals responsible for cancer. In Japan, lentinan is considered to be so effective that it has been accepted as a regular drug and it is available in injectable form for the treatment of cancer.
Lenthionine is another interesting substance in the composition of chanterelles. It boosts the special type of healing known as platelets accumulation and it is used to cure thrombosis and other similar conditions.
Many other studies have tried to identify all of the bioactive components of chanterelles, since many aspects of mushrooms are poorly understood. It is known that eating them reduces the level of cholesterol, even if the exact mechanism hasn't been discovered yet. A possible explanation is the very high content of dietary fiber, which can scrape cholesterol directly from the walls of arteries.
This fungus supplies a number of strong antioxidants, which are weapons used by the body against dangerous free radicals. These improve the reaction of your immune system against pathogens, preventing a number of common conditions, as well as severe ones.
It is also good for mental health, due to the rich amount of vitamin B12 and folic acid. These play several other important roles and are needed both for the synthesis of RBC and DNA, which are part of every single cell.
Vitamin D is usually produced as a result of direct sun action and can rarely be found in food. However, a single serving of chanterelles provides no less than 30 percent of the daily required amount of vitamin D2.
Due to the very powerful mix of vitamins in its composition, the chanterelle mushroom provides an overall health boost and can especially clean the liver of toxins and improve its effectiveness.
Among the minerals supplied by this mushroom, potassium is found in the greatest amount. It is needed by many body functions but especially for cardiovascular health and the internal balance of electrolytes and fluids. Consuming potassium-rich foods can significantly reduce the risk of strokes and high blood pressure.
It also provides a high amount of copper, which is a trace mineral used in the structure of tissues, as well as part of a number of important enzyme reactions.
A serving of chanterelle mushrooms supplies 0.154 mg of manganese, which is equivalent to 6.70% of the daily recommended amount. This rare mineral is especially needed by women to fight the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which is a serious problem affecting many of them. Manganese can alleviate issues such as depression, headaches, irritability or mood swings, which are experienced by women every month. Due to the high content of this mineral, chanterelle mushrooms are excellent for this purpose.
The culinary history of chanterelles is not as old as the one of other mushrooms. The oldest records date from the 16th century. However, they were considered to be a delicacy in French cuisine, which made them popular all around Europe in the 18th century, when French dishes were fashionable among rich nobles. They were often consumed by aristocrats, as a prestige food. However, chanterelle mushrooms are commonly eaten today in Europe as well as North America.
All chanterelles have a strong and distinctive flavour but this varies from one species to another and it is not easy to describe. Many mushrooms have a peppery and spicy taste, while some have woody aromas resembling wood and others are fruitier. The most popular type is the golden chanterelle, which is expensive and considered to be a gourmet delicacy similar to truffles and morels. It has a high price both in restaurants and in stores and most chefs believe it to have by far the best flavour of all chanterelle varieties.
Most of the aromatic compounds that give chanterelles their distinctive taste are soluble in fat. As a result, the mushrooms are an excellent choice for sautés that include oil, cream or butter. Other components are soluble in either water or alcohol, so they can also serve as ingredients in recipes with wine. They can be cooked in numerous ways; some of the most common are sautés, soufflés, soups or cream sauces. Unlike other mushrooms, they are generally unsuited for raw consumption. This is due to their peppery taste but also because cooking is the best way to release their flavour.
Both the aroma and the texture of chanterelles is well conserved in dry form, so this is a great way to preserve them for later use. The drying process appears to damage the structure a bit, while the taste actually becomes stronger. Some chefs actually prefer to use dried mushrooms in their dishes, since they are chewier and have superior flavour. Dried chanterelles can also serve as a spice, dried into a powder that is added to sauces or other recipes. Freezing is another preservation method, but elder mushrooms sometimes develop a bitter taste after they are thawed.
Due to their meaty and chewy texture, chanterelles are a great addition to many recipes. A chanterelle sauté in butter is delicious and very easy to prepare. They can also be baked and their aroma pairs well with half and half, chicken broth or cream. They can also be combined with all types of meat, such as pork, poultry or beef.
Chanterelles can be consumed raw but this is very rare, due to the peppery taste. They can upset the stomach and some people feel sick after consuming them. Unlike other mushrooms, which are delicacies when raw, the chanterelle is better suited for serving well cooked.
There are also several ways to preserve these mushrooms for later. The simplest is to prepare a sauté with onions and butter, then freeze it. Most of the initial flavour remains after defrosting. Chanterelles can also be canned easily at home. Just clean the mushrooms, wash them well, slice them into several big parts and then apply steam for about 20 minutes in order to kill all germs. Small jars are the best recipients for this purpose; complete the remaining space with boiled water and about half a spoon of salt and vinegar to improve the taste. The final step is to place them in a pressure cooker and allow steam to work for about 40 minutes to finalize the sterilization process. Another option is to pickle the mushrooms in brine or vinegar, adding various other ingredients such as soy sauce, oil or spices.
Chanterelles are similar to other mushrooms in composition and provide significant amounts of vitamins A and B complex, as well as the rare vitamin D. They include glutamic acid and other essential amino acids, which are known to boost the immune system and reduce the risk of infections, inflammatory conditions and even cancer. Glutamic acid also prevents heart diseases by reducing the chance of blood clotting.
The chanterelle mushrooms are also rich in minerals, especially potassium, which controls heart muscle contractions and balances blood pressure. Other key minerals for a healthy nervous system are magnesium, copper, selenium, manganese, calcium and zinc. Chanterelles are a good source of cellulose, a dietary fiber that accelerates the elimination of waste and toxins from the body, while preventing constipation and other digestive issues.