Chanterelle season in Alabama is hot, sticky and full of deadly creatures. How do you know when to search for chanterelles in the South? When the daytime temperatures are in the 90s, it storms almost every day, and the humidity is so high you feel like you are in a steam room when you walk outside. In Alabama this season is usually long with high yields of delicious gold. I love this sticky shroomy time of year!
I love everything about our steamy Summers and Chanterelle pickings…everything except ticks. I hate ticks, and they seem to be the guardians of the chanterelles. Every time we bring home baskets of beautiful chanties we bring home a few ticks with them. When we get home, everybody is stripped down and checked for ticks immediately. Even after we are checked, my skin crawls with thought of ticks. I am totally paranoid when it comes to these horrible pests that are the epitome of evil. My fear and hatred are quite justified though, because ticks are more likely to kill you than most any other creatures in Alabama woods. I do everything I can to safely prevent ticks from latching on to our mushroom search party. But, sometimes my preventative measures are a bit overboard.
This weekend our family hiking trip was one with a mission; to pick our first Golden Chanterelles of the season. Before loading everyone in the car, I sprayed down the family dog with organic insect repellent. I also sprayed the legs of the one of the kids that happened to be standing nearby. I have no idea why I felt the need to do this before getting in the car. But, by the time we reached our hiking destination, everyone in the car was ready to escape the noxious smell. They all had their windows rolled down, and they were all probably wanting to throw me out of the car along with my several bottles of bug spray. As soon as they were able to escape from the fumes, I sprayed them all down again with extra spray on every ankle and lower back (the places the ticks most love to latch on to). I don’t know if my thorough spraying was successful or if we just got lucky, but for the first time ever, we picked chanterelles without picking up ticks. There were 5 of us covered in a mixture of stinking oils and no ticks have been found. I will count this as a mom success and foraging miracle.
We managed to pick just under a pound of chanterelles on an easy 1.5 mile hike. We visited one of our perennial favorite spots for golden chanties and found plenty of tiny button sized mushrooms with a few larger ones. There were just enough for everyone find a few really pretty ones. Chanterelles provide fun and easy foraging. Their bright orange/yellow color makes them highly visible from far away in the forest. It is like hunting for Easter eggs….the eggs that are “hidden” for the toddlers, scattered about on the church lawn in plain sight. Even though they are easy to spot, every little bit of bright orange that pops out from the leaf litter brings excitement. The first picking of the year is always the most fun, even if it is just a quickly picked small basket. Once the woods are filled with them, chanterelle picking quickly becomes hard work. But, this trip was just a short bit of family fun that resulted in enough chanterelles to make a couple of delicious dishes, including Chanterelle and Proscuitto Stuffed Pattypan Squash.
We made it home from the woods with our beautiful golden treasure, just before the outer rain bands of tropical storm Alberto rolled into the area. Over the last 2 days, the rainy and windy mess has been lodging the corn, trying to ruin the onions, and probably turning all of the mushrooms into disgusting blobs. The pencil-eraser sized chanterelles that we left behind will probably turn into waterlogged orange mush by the end of the week. Hot summer rains cause the fungus to fruit, but, too much rain over several days ruins them. I’m very glad we were able to get a few perfect little golden fungus picked when we did. We will probably be waiting a while for new ones to pop up after this storm destroys all that is left out there. But, hopefully in a week or so a new flush of chanterelles will brighten up the forest floor.