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Wild Chanterelle Mushrooms Are a Culinary Delicacy

Tis the season for the coveted golden mushrooms.

Editor's Note: Be very careful when picking and eating wild mushrooms. Make sure you know exactly what you're eating, or you could end up .

They sell for around $18 to $25 a pound, but if you can find these golden mushrooms on your own, they are worth every minute it takes looking for them. 

Locally-gathered chanterelles (found up the coast, north of Davenport), are exquisite when turned into a creamy risotto dish, but they are delicious enough to be eaten alone, sauteed in garlic and olive oil or butter. They have a fleshy texture, a flowery peach-like aroma, and they taste rich and buttery with a hint of oak. 

Part of what makes chanterelles so special is that they cannot be cultivated.

“You can only find them in the wild, usually after a couple days of sun after some rain,” said TJ Magallanes, a local wild mushroom enthusiast. “Chanterelles are the best mushrooms aside from truffles. They’re like little gold nuggets that pop out of the ground.” 

Kevin Gotti of Santa Cruz goes mushroom hunting north of Davenport, and said chanterelles can often be found growing in patches of poison oak, and Magallanes said they are often found under oak trees. Local mushroom hunters seem to have luck in Davenport, Bonny Doon, and Boulder Creek, but exact locations remain a well-kept secret, especially since they reappear year after year in the same spots.

If you are lucky enough to come across these edible gold treasures, (click here for more information on how to identify a chanterelle) take care in handling them, and try not to get them wet when cleaning them, unless you dry them immediately. 

Gotti recommends brushing the mushrooms clean with a brush rather than rinsing them, especially because so much water will come off of them when you cook them. He recommends cooking the mushrooms with lots of garlic, like this:

1. Tear mushrooms from stems to caps into strips.

2. Put them in a sauté pan over low heat for about 15 minutes to draw the water out of them.

3. In a small pan, simmer crushed garlic in olive oil for about 10 minutes, remove the excess oil and add creamy European style butter.

4. Remove the water from the saute pan and add the garlic and melted butter to the mushrooms.

They are also exquisite when deep fried with tempura batter and served with a spicy chipotle aioli, according to Magallanes. 

Like any wild mushrooms, you don’t want to eat too many in one sitting because they will give you a stomach ache. 

Have you eaten any chanterelles lately? Let us know your favorite way to eat wild mushrooms in the comments!

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