July 2009 – Chanterelles – or girolles to give them their French culinary name – begin to flush in July and continue to flush regularly well into October…
Cantharellus cibarius is one of Britain’s greatest gastronomic jewels. It can grow in almost any deciduous woodland, but is most frequent in Scotland where it is picked through the summer by the hundredweight. Indeed, it is probably the only British wild mushroom to have a significant commercial value. Sadly, just as most of our sea- and shellfish goes straight to Continental markets, so the majority of these delicately fluted golden mushrooms are shipped to France where they appear on menus as girolles.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of us walk past the valuable wild bounty that cascades out of the leaf mould by our feet – oblivious not only to their identity, but to the very existence of these pretty little mushrooms. For although bright yellow and often growing clustered together in huge numbers, they are surprisingly well-camouflaged, disappearing into backdrop of leaf mould and dead grass of their woodland habitat.
These are among the easier fungi to identify. They start as little buttons pushing out of the soil on stalks, before the caps spread out into an irregular funnel perched on a deeply-veined stalk and another tell-tale indicator is the distinct whiff of apricots.
This delicate little fungus has one of the most exquisite flavours of any wild mushroom. Slightly bitter when raw, its aroma lingers on when cooked, working particularly well with dairy- or egg-based dishes. Try it lightly fried in butter with garlic, declarify the pan with white wine and serve on a slice of toasted brioche.