By Gretchen Steele Contributing Writer
This is rapidly developing into a banner year for late summer mushrooms, especially in southern Illinois. I am also getting good reports further north and central as well, including a report from Pike County that told me they found “hordes” of yellow chanterelles in August. For once, Mother Nature is on the shroomers’ side this year!
The yellow chanterelles – mostly smooth chanterelles in my neighborhood – are flushing like crazy. It’s been several years since I have seen this big of flush, the smaller orange cinnabar chanterelles are also going like gangbusters, and best of all, so are the highly sought after black trumpets.
Looking at a black trumpet, one is likely to be put off a bit by their rather bland and somewhat ugly appearance. They honestly don’t look like something that would be very tasty.
The black trumpet (Craterellus cornucopioides) is an often overlooked or ignored treat in the forest. Conversely, they are a highly sought after culinary mushroom, given their smoky, delicious flavor and because they are very difficult to cultivate and grow commercially.
Black trumpets are notoriously hard to spot on a casual walk through the woods. They are smallish and blend in extremely well with the leaf litter. They also prefer deep shade, adding low light to the mix. Traditionally, hunters look for black trumpets in hardwood forests, especially in areas with lots of oak and beech, along hillsides, in large mossy areas and along washes or areas where water runs or washes down the hillside and along creek edges.
If you start finding them in wash or water runoff area, it’s not unusual to find them all the way along the wash from top down.
Black trumpets generally start in mid-July and run through the end of September, depending on weather conditions. Lots of rain, warm days and nights will really bring them out. This year, I am seeing bigger flushes than usual, but we’ve also had more rain events than usual in my neighborhood.
Black trumpets are funnel shaped and gray, brown, or black often growing in small bunches or singly and range in height from 1 to 6 inches. The stem is hollow the entire length of the mushroom. The flesh is very thin and delicate.
The cap (pileus) is 3⁄4 to 3 inches across with very thin flesh with a gray, brown or black flower-like appearance. They often have very strong perfume-like aroma.
Gills are not present in black trumpets. The surface will be smooth or have just the slightest hint of ridges and be black, brown, or rust color. Spores range from white to rust color.
One of the most common questions about black trumpets is how to cook them. Please, please, I implore you, do not bread, batter and deep fry these mushrooms. Just don’t. Simple preparation is best for these delicately flavored mushrooms. It’s also good when pairing them with other mushrooms to be a bit cautious as some of the stronger flavored mushrooms will quickly overpower their more delicate flavors. They do work well with chicken of the woods and other varieties of chanterelles, which you are likely to find during the same time period.
Preserving black trumpets is best done by drying. Additionally, the dried mushrooms can be ground into a powder that will make for excellent flavoring to this coming autumn’s sauces, soups, stews, and butters.
The tasty black trumpet can be found in Illinois in late summer, often all the way through the end of September.
Wild Foraged Black Trumpet Mushroom Spread
1 tablespoon ghee or butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic scapes or shallots
1⁄2 cup coarsely chopped black trumpet mushrooms(cleaned)
8 ounce cultured cream-cheese
1 pinch sea salt (real salt) to taste
1 pinch white pepper to taste
In a skillet over medium/low heat, sauté garlic scapes in ghee until soft.
Add in black trumpet mushrooms continue sautéing until mushrooms are cooked through and any liquid is evaporated.
Reduce heat to low, add cream cheese (cut or scooped into roughly 1 tablespoon sized chunks). Stirring constantly until the cream cheese is melted and mixed thoroughly.
Transfer to an air tight jar or container and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours prior to allow the flavors to come together.
Remove dip from at the refrigerator roughly 30 minutes prior to serving to allow it to warm to room temperature. Serve with crackers, toasted bread or raw vegetables.
Use 1 ounce dried black trumpets that have been reconstituted in warm water in place of the fresh.
This recipe makes 16 servings
Here’s another recipe for Black Trumpets paired with Wild Duck – from our friends at Harvesting Nature