This section is from the book "Our Edible Toadstools and Mushrooms and How to Distinguish Them", by W. Hamilton Gibson. Also available from Amazon: Our Edible Toadstools And Mushrooms And How To Distinguish Them.
Bearing somewhat the shape of the Lactarius, but having its own distinguishing features, is the Chantarelle (Plate 19).
The "Agarics," as already described on page 79, are distinguished by the feature of the gills, or thin laminated curtains - the hymenium - upon which the spores are produced, and from which they are shed beneath the mushroom. These gills vary in thickness and number in the various species, and in one genus are so short, thick, swollen, and branched as to give rather the effect of turgid veins than gills, as shown in the accompanying sectional drawing. We occasionally come upon one of these mushrooms in our walks, usually in the woods. When it first appears the cap is rounded, and the rim folded inward towards the stem; but in mature specimens it assumes the flat or, later, the cup-shaped form shown in Plate 19.
A fungus thus formed is a Chantarelle, or Cantharellus, and is readily identified. Any specimen having these features, and which possesses in addition a fine, rich yellow color, is the Cantharellus cibarius of our plate, the esculent morsel so highly prized by epicures on the Continent, where to many - perhaps somewhat indiscriminating - gastronomists it forms one of the greatest delicacies among the entire list of edible fungi. The diameter of the mature specimen may reach five inches, though three inches will be nearer the average size. The cap is frequently quite eccentric in its form, wavy-edged, or even folded upon itself in occasional individuals; but the pure, deep yellow color "suggesting the yolk of an egg," and the swollen, vein-like hymenium, generally of a similar color, will be sufficient to distinguish it under any disguise of mere form. Another unique characteristic is its odor, which suggests ripe apricots or plums. The taste of the Chantarelle when raw is pungent and peppery, but this quality disappears in cooking. The spores are of a pale yellow-ochre color, and beneath the microscope are elliptical in shape.
Section Of Chantarelle
Plate XIX. The Chantarelle. Cantharellus Cibarius
Pileus: At first convex, later flat; three to five inches in diameter, with central hollow, and finally almost funnel form. Color, bright to deep yellow above and below.
Gills: Shallow and fluted, resembling swollen veins, branched, more or less interconnected and tapering off down the stem; color same as pileus.
Stem: Solid, generally (often slightly) tapering towards base; paler than pileus or gills.
Spores: Very pale yellow ochre in color; elliptical.
Taste: Peppery and pungent in the raw state; mild and sweet after cooking.
Odor: Suggesting ripe apricots or plums.
Habitat: In woods, especially hemlocks, generally in clusters of two or three, or in lines or arcs of several individuals.
Plate XIX. Cantharellus Cibarius.
From the last of May until early November the Chantarelle may be found in our woods, with more or less frequency, singly or in clusters. According to Dr. Badham, an eminent authority on esculent fungi, "the best ways of dressing the Chantarelle are to stew or mince it by itself, or to combine it with meat or with other fungi. It requires long and gentle stewing to make it tender, but by soaking it in milk the night before, less cooking will be requisite."
But the recipes employed in Great Britain and upon the Continent to the glory of the Chantarelle would almost fill a fair-sized receipt book, and some of them are quite elaborate. A few of these are given in a later chapter. After a trial of a number of them the writer is assured that the simple broiling or frying in butter or oil, with proper seasoning, and serving on toast, will prove a most acceptable substitute.
Another species of Chantarelle, which might possibly be confounded with the Cantharellus cibarius, is the Orange Chantarelle, Cantharellus aurantiacus, which is pronounced "scarcely esculent" by the authorities. Its average size is much smaller than the true Chantarelle, and its much deeper orange hue, and straighter, more regularly branched and crowded gills, will readily identify it, the gills of cibarius being thicker, and usually somewhat eccentric and netted. Like the foregoing, it assumes the funnel form with age, as indicated in the generic name, Cantharellus - "a diminutive drinking-cup."