Newfoundland Chanterelles !  A gustatory delight ,free for the taking.

Some time ago I wrote a blog on chance remarks and their repercussions.  My interest in collecting chanterelle mushrooms came about from just that sort of event.

A good friend of mine invited me to dinner one evening to meet another friend of hers who is a very well known and successful Newfoundland artist.  During the course of the meal she mentioned that I have a summer place in Cupids.  This prompted her esteemed guest to ask  where my cottage was.  When I started my detailed description including historic landmarks, a beauty salon and an old church that had been transformed into a b&b I realized that this man knew the area quite well.  That prompted me to ask about his interests in Cupids.

” My wife and I go there every year in late summer and gather mushrooms.” he told me.

” Really ?” I asked.  “You mean there are edible mushrooms in Newfoundland?”

“Oh yes, my wife makes wonderful chanterelle soup from them.”

” How can you tell the ones that are good to eat?”

”  Well they are easily recognizable, not at all like the toadstools that you are no doubt familiar with” he explained.

He took a piece of paper and did a quick sketch of chanterelles. Carefully  he described the colour and the irregular shapes I might encounter.  I thought not only am I learning something new but I am getting a sketch from this famous artist. I was tempted to ask him to sign the sketch but felt that would be too tacky.   I took the drawing and folded it carefully into my purse . It was over a year later that I thought about it again.

I was searching for blueberries, big juicy ones.  Small berries don’t interest me. I turned to go up a path to my favourite area   when I noticed  a yellow gelatinous mass on the ground. I had seen similar hundreds of times before.  But this time my mind  flashed back to the sketch I had been given.  I bent down, pulled aside some undergrowth and found more of the yellow objects .  On close examination I noticed they were not mushy at all but firm and trumpet shaped.  Chanterelles, I guessed!

I knew what prospectors feel when they discover gold.

I gathered some.  But I wouldn’t eat them till I could find someone to assure me I was not going to be poisoned.  It was a dilemma because I really didn’t know any  mycologists.   Whom could I ask?

Then I remembered I had to drive through Holyrood on my way back to St. John’s  That is where my mushroom artist lived.  Maybe I could just knock on his door and ask him to take a look. I hoped that wouldn’t be too brash of me.

With some trepidation I did just that.  I found the house , a modest country cottage , pastoral , as you would expect from this artist whose brush recreates tree roots and earthy scenes.  I knocked on the door .  Within a few minutes a charming lady answered.  I guessed her to be his wife and explained the story of how her husband had told me about chanterelles, drawn a sketch for me and told me the general area where they had gathered them.  ( He wouldn’t get specific because chanterelles are scarce so keeping your find secret is essential to preserving your harvest.   Fishermen in Newfoundland would do the same when they found a good fishing ground.  It is a part of our heritage to be secretive about our good food sources if that food is not abundant.)

She asked,” do you have some with you?”

” In my car, ”  I answered.

“Well , let’s go see.”

I opened my trunk , took out the basket of mushrooms and showed her. She studied them carefully ,passed them back to me and said, “You’ve got yourself some chanterelles!”

Since then I was invited to dine with both her and her husband again. We talked about our harvest of mushrooms hedging around the location of our finds. But when I gathered some just yesterday I remembered some of their references and I think that we go to the same place but from opposite directions.  One day I might just meet them on the path and we will get a chuckle out of it.

This September I am hoping to go foraging on Fogo Island with a group of people who have an interest in mushrooms. Some of these foragers come from other countries.  Perhaps we will learn of  other edible mushrooms that grow here. I will write later about this experience if I am lucky enough to get off the waiting list.  Apparently I am not the only Newfoundlander  who is interested in fungi .

Chanterelles can sell for $25 /lb in some places but  I can get them for free here in Newfoundland. Mine will not be sold. I fry them and enjoy the nutty flavour with chicken, fish too, and alone with rice.  Yummmmmmmmm!

chanterelles sizzle in the pan

chanterelles sizzle in the pan

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2 responses »

  1. Darlene says:

    You are making my mouth water. Lucky you to have these delicacies on your doorstep!.

  2. dorannrule says:

    If wishes could come true, I wish I was there with you next time you cook up the Chanterelles! There are Morels here but I would be afraid to harvest them. And we have “Puff Balls” – giant round white balls – a mushroom that is also delicious. Being a novice mushroom hunter I am sure I would find and try the poisonous variety! A very interesting post!

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