The Golden Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarus) is one of the most readily identifiable, edible mushrooms due to the distinctive orange to bright orange color of the cap that is persistent under the cuticle and the stalk in addition to the characteristic gills. The cap is generally broad and convex, but developing a central depression as it ages. The margins of the cap are lobed or wavy. On the underside of the cap are the fertile spore producing surfaces that are not true gills, since they are fold that develop during the expansion of the cap as opposed to being preformed, but are loosely called gills. The gills are thick and shallow, referred to as deeply decurrent and appearing as defined wrinkles on the underside of the cap. The ends of the gills can be forked or cross veined. The cap and stalk are not separated by a distinct barrier and are the same color. The stalk, or stipe, measure 2 to 10 cm long and .5 to 5 cm thick, is only slightly tapered toward the base, solid in cross-section, dry and firm. The spore print produced by the fertile underside of the cap is of a light yellow color. With age and sun or weather damage, the mushrooms become are bleached out and somewhat cracked. A greenish coating can sometimes be seen from the growth of algae on the surface.
There is a rule to follow when hunting for golden chanterelles: where there is one chanterelle, there is another. The fungi appear scattered across the forest floor where they are present and can often be seen in gregarious populations. They are terrestrial and always found in the forested areas throughout the northern temperate zone hiding under the layer of humus, being very common on the west coast during the fall, winter and spring. I have heard it said that, a person can find golden chanterelles year-round in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, if they know where to look. Though aggregations of chanterelles are found typically associated with conifers (esepcially Douglas Fir stands), they can form an association with Live Oaks (Quercus chrysolepsis).
Golden Chanterelles are one of the most common and safe of the edible mushrooms and are high in vitamin A. A novice hunter can generally identify this species with little trouble due to a lack of really close look alikes and few characteristics necessary in positive identification. In my opinion, once you have found a couple Golden Chanterelles on your own it is hard to miss them. Being a choice species for human consumption and being unsuccessfully cultivated, Golden Chanterelles are harvested commercially and shipped to restaurants and markets, local and abroad. Once harvested, the mushrooms can be kept fresh in the fridge up to a week. The smell of the Golden Chanterelles has been described as that of dried peaches or mildy fruity with peppery or somewhat bitter flavor.
Some other common names include chanterelle, girolle (in France) and Pfifferling (in Germany).
Arora, D. (1986) Mushrooms Demystified. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA.
Lincoff, G. (Ed.) (1981) Simon & Schuster’s Guide to Mushrooms. Simon & Schuster Inc, New York, New York.
Smith, A. (1975) A Field Guide to Western Mushrooms. University of Michigan.