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Chanterelle is the common name of fungi in the genus Cantharellus. They are among the most popularly eaten species of wild mushrooms. They are orange, yellow or white, meaty and funnel-shaped. On the lower surface, underneath the smooth cap, most species have gill-like ridges that run almost all the way down its stipe, which tapers down seamlessly from the cap. Many species emit a fruity aroma, reminiscent of apricots, and often have a mildly peppery taste (hence its German name, Pfifferling).
Chanterelles are common in northern parts of Europe, North America, including Mexico, Central America, Asia, including Turkey and the Himalayas (including Kashmir, Nepal, and Bhutan), and Africa including Zambia, Congo and Uganda. Chanterelles tend to grow in clusters in mossy coniferous forests, but are also often found in mountainous birch forests and among grasses and low-growing herbs. In central Europe, including Ukraine, the golden chanterelle is often found in beech forests among similar species and forms. In the UK, they may be found from July through December.
Though records of chanterelles being eaten date back to the 16th century, they first gained widespread recognition as a culinary delicacy with the spreading influence of French cuisine in the 18th century, when they began appearing in palace kitchens. For many years, they remained notable for being served at the tables of nobility. Nowadays, the usage of chanterelles in the kitchen is common throughout Europe and North America.
Chanterelles are also well-suited for drying, and tend to maintain their aroma and consistency quite well.Some chefs profess that reconstituted chanterelles are actually superior in flavor to fresh ones, though they lose in texture whatever they gain in flavor by becoming more chewy after being preserved by drying. Dried chanterelles can also be crushed into flour and used in seasoning in soups or sauces. Chanterelles are also suitable for freezing, though older frozen chanterelles can often develop a slightly bitter taste after thawing.
The false chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca) has a similar appearance and can be confused with the chanterelle. Distinguishing factors are color (the true chanterelle is uniform egg-yellow, while the false chanterelle is more orange in hue and graded, with darker center) and attachment of gills to the stem (the true chanterelle has ridges or wrinkles, which can be quite deep, but not true gills).
Though once thought to be hazardous, it is now known that the false chanterelle is edible but not especially tasty, and ingesting it may result in mild gastrointestinal distress.