Craterellus tubaeformis, AKA Trumpet Chanterelle or Yellowlegs (US)
- Edibility: 4/5 – Great earthy flavour that belies their flimsy appearance
- Identification: 4/5 – Quite distinctive, but can be confused with several other similar, closely related, hollow-stemmed edible species that are often referred to as, winter chanterelles below. Referring to C.tubaeformis as Trumpet chanterelle helps to avoid confusion.
- Distribution: 3/5 – Reasonably common (though easily missed) and often occurring in large numbers where established
- Season: September – January. “Winter” chanterelle is something of a misnomer as they stop growing after the first heavy frost, but being an insect resistant fungi, fruit bodies often persisting for some time after that. Certainly they tend to appear later than true chanterelles (which are predominantly a summer mushroom in Scotland).
- Habitat: Under spruce, pine, western hemlock, beech or (less commonly) oak, with a preference for heavy leaf/needle cover and particularly moist slopes. Often blaeberry/bilberry is present.
- Ecology: Mycorrhizal, helping tree partners in the uptake of water and nutrients in exchange for simple sugars. Largely unappealing to both insects and slugs, though the hollow stems can be home to fast-moving millipedes! More on the ecology of slower-growing, insect resistant mycorrhizal mushrooms here.
Several similar species to craterellus tubaeformis are often lumped together as “winter chanterelles”. Most of these were previously grouped under the cantharellus genus, but most of these hollow-striped, pseudo-gilled species have recently been reclassified as craterellus. They all like similar habitats, and can be used in the same way in the kitchen. Here is a quick rundown:
Golden chanterelle (craterellus aurora aka craterellus lutescens).
Somewhat rarer than the trumpet chanterelle. Distinguished by wrinkled surface on the underside of the cap rather than pseudo-gills of c.tubaeformis. Don’t allow the name to confuse you with the much more stocky and distinctive “true” chanterelle, cantharellus cibarius, which is golden/orange all over, much more solid, and lacking a hollow stipe.
Ashen chanterelle (craterellus cinereus)
Similar to c. tubaeformis, but lacks any yellow colouration. From above they can resemble horn of plenty (craterellus cornucopoides), but the presence of pseudo gills-on the underside of the cap distinguishes them from entirely gill-less horn of plenty. Ashen chanterelles are edible in the same manner as other mushrooms on this page that fall vaguely under the “winter chanterelle” banner. They are not commonly reported in the UK, though this may well be due to the difficulty of spotting them among leaf litter. I am yet to find them in SW Scotland.
Sinuous chanterelle, aka wavy-capped chanterelle (Pseudocraterellus undulatus)
Similar to the golden chanterelle, having only vague wrinkles instead of gills, but lacks any yellow or orange colouration. It tends to grow in clumps with its wavy caps overlapping and interlocking.
Sinuous chanterelles appear to be less common than trumpet chanterelles (c.tubaeformis), but quite likely to be under reported. I find plenty around Galloway, often near trumpet chanterelles, chanterelles or hedgehog mushrooms, and wonder if they form myco-myco as well as mycorrhizal relationships. Sinuous chanterelles are edible in the same way as other craterellus species, though tend to be wet and more flimsy.
The trumpet chanterelle is a common, easy to identify and delicious mushroom that can be picked in large numbers right through November and well into December in most of the UK.
With their drab brown caps (3-7cm across) and flimsy flesh, winter chanterelles aren’t so glamorous as the true yolky-golden chanterelle (Cantharellus Cibarius), at least not at first sight. But once you look below the cap, their veined pseudo-gills, and orange stripes are truly beautiful – every one an individual work of art. A basket of winter chanterelles has to be one of the prettiest sights of autumn.
Confusingly, the French refer to our chanterelles as girolle and winter chanterelles as chanterelles. Thats why you will often find up-market restaurants selling girolle. As if the world of wild mushrooms wasn’t confusing enough! This is why scientific names are really useful sometimes – although even they change quite regularly as scientists re-categorise (not so long ago, C. Tubaeformis was known as Cantherellus infundibuliformis).
Fortunately, once you look beneath the wavy, irregular cap, identification becomes much easier.
Most obvious is the bright yellow/orange stem which gives the common name of yellow-leg. The beige gills are also distinctive by being vein-like rather than deeply grooved (think combed plastercene) on trumpet chanterelles, or even less substantial wrinkles in the case of golden chanterelles. These two species are so similar to the non-scientist that in this instance it isn’t crucial to distinguish between them – both are good eating mushrooms with a sweet fruity scent (you need to stick your nose in a basketful to smell this) and a delicate, earthy flavour. A final identification feature is the funnel-like cap and hollow stem of fully grown specimens.
Spotting the dingy caps of winter chanterelles in leaf-strewn woodland can be incredibly difficult – even if you know where you are looking. I return every year to a specific tree beneath which I know they will be growing, but it can still take several minutes to spot the first one. Then, as so often occurs while foraging, my eyes seem to tune into the right wavelength and dozens of mushrooms magically emerge from the leaf litter.
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Where established, they can occur in large numbers – I once found a densely packed foot wide pathway of them forming a huge ring. In the exact centre of the ring was a large and perfectly formed penny bun. No wonder mushrooms are often associated with fairies!
Winter chanterelles are “multilingual” mycorrhizal fungi, mostly grow in association with conifers, especially beneath spruce, pine and western hemlock, though I find plenty under beech and oak too. You can find vast numbers of them in those large, soulless deserts of sitka that support very little else (mushrooms don’t need light to thrive). In my experience they prefer habitats with a good damp covering of moss and leaf or needle litter.
As a relatively slow-growing, insect-resistant, slow-to-rot mushroom, much of my discussion in this post about about (true) chanterelles also applies to winter chanterelles.
Despite their flimsy texture, winter chanterelles, are one of our finest edible wild mushrooms, and can vastly improve any mushroom dish. They have a high water content so I sometimes resort to wringing them out before cooking or drying, which adds to their fridge life, and saves them from going off if drying isn’t rapid.
Roast/fry them quite hard once you have driven off most of the moisture. Their slippery texture and earthy flavour make them a natural partner in creamy, garlicy sauces – especially with linguine. They grow during the pheasant shooting season and fit naturally in any game casseroles, pies or stews
If you are lucky enough to find some, the chances are you will gather enough for more than one meal. I recommend preserving gluts by lightly simmering in a 3:2:1 in vinegar solution (3 parts water, 2 parts cider vinegar, 1 part sugar) then preserving in oil, or sauté in butter then freeze. They also dry quite quickly and well in a dehydrator, warm, airy space, or in a very low fan oven with the door left slightly open.
- Edible wild fungi guide
- In Season Now
- An Introduction to Fungi Foraging
- Winter Foraging
- Learn To Forage
- Relatively Slow Growing, Insect Resistant Mushrooms