The idea of foraging is nothing short of fulfilling; carving out time to connect with what nature has to offer, the nourishing properties contained within plants we may otherwise overlook, the mindfulness of each excursion…

However, there is a lot to learn! Feeling inspired by all that we don’t know, we reached out to Leah Gibson for a lesson in foraging. From the forest to the table, Leah shared some insightful tips in foraging for chanterelles – including a delectable recipe for the beautiful golden mushrooms.

Summer is my favourite season for so many reasons; the slowness and sweetness of it all has me in my element. Nature is at its most abundant and the more I learn about what’s around me and available within my region seasonally, the more I love interacting with it all.

Foraging is always a lesson in the unpredictability of nature… (which you’d think I’d have accepted by now, working with flowers for so many years). Last year, in mid-July, I had the most abundant chanterelle harvest I could have ever dreamt of, so I expected them to be out at the same time this year (and in similar numbers)… boy was I mistaken.

A couple of weeks passed and I was sure I’d missed them or that there just simply wouldn’t be any this year. I went for a hike to my secret spot for more than three consecutive mornings to no avail, but then, after a full day and night of rain – the very next morning, there they were: beaconing steadily at me from ten feet off the trail, right where they were last year. It’s like they popped up out of nowhere just when I was about to quit seeking them. Foraging fungi and flora is a reminder of the fleeting essence of nature, which is what makes it even more special and thrilling year after year.

PART ONE: FORAGE

What You’ll Need:

A basket or bowl to harvest into. (I try and use baskets because I’ve read this can allow for scattering of spores and also… they’re cute.)
A small pocket knife
And if you’re like me… your glasses so you can differentiate between potential mushrooms and leaf matter!

The Guide:

First things first: wear long pants and socks to protect yourself from mosquitos and poison ivy.

Be confident in your identification before you head out into the field! There are heaps of online resources and books to consult, or a friend who is well-versed in fungi is usually keen to help you ID if you are unsure. Never eat until you’re absolutely sure it’s edible, and always cook before consuming.

Here are some features I look for when hunting chanterelles:
Colour: bright yellow/orange outside, white inside (and the stem is fleshy rather than hollow)
Gills: false gills, don’t go all the way down the stem
Habitat: grow out of the ground rather than on stumps – companion trees are oak birch, maple, and poplar here in Ontario

I use the same philosophy when foraging mushrooms as I do when harvesting flowers: always take less than you leave. It’s good practice to leave some for other folks or animals, and to let the remaining/older fruiting bodies go to spore and spread!

PART TWO: TABLE

Cut the ends of the stems off your freshly foraged mushrooms. Sometimes I do this on-site and leave them to compost in the woods, other times I’ll wait until I’m home to do this in the kitchen.

Next, time to clean! I like to rinse my mushrooms with cool water to get any soil or bugs out of their nooks and crannies.

You can then cook them whole or chop them into smaller bits – remember – they are mostly comprised of water and will shrink like any mushroom (a lot!).

THE RECIPE:

COTTAGE CHANTERELLE PASTA

I chose to cook mine over the fire for ambience, but a stovetop will do just fine! Get your favourite pan nice and toasty and melt a good chunk of butter to saute your chanterelles in (I also added a pinch of sea salt and some minced garlic).

Boil a pot of water to prepare your pasta noodles of choice.

For the sauce, I followed a super simple cream sauce recipe:
1 cup of cream to 1 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese (grate extra to add on top afterwards, too) with some salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the chanterelles over a nest of warm pasta, smother them in cream sauce, and add a sprig of basil from the garden. I wanted to keep it very minimal to highlight the mushrooms above all, and use ingredients easy to haul along while camping or that are commonly found in the cottage pantry.

FAVOURITE RESOURCES:

From your local bookstore:

All that the Rain Promises and More by David Arora

Wild Mushrooms: a Cookbook and Foraging Guide by Kristin Blizzard

Mushrooms of Ontario and Eastern Canada by George L. Barron (but try to find one true to your specific region!)

Browse tools for the task: