[UPDATED] Northern Florida Chanterelles from Jesse O’Reilly

UPDATE:  Just confirmed with that Jesse met Michael at his Apron’s Cooking School class in Tallahassee in April. Gotta love that.

A beautiful thing happened the other day. On Jul 14, 2011, at 6:21 PM, Michael received an email from chef and forager Jesse O’Reilly including pictures of some gorgeous A1 chanterelles, part of an 8 pound batch, and an offer to send us some to try.  Of course like any sane person, let alone a chef, his answer was “YES YES YES!!!!!” And of course they were amazing, and landed on toast with soft scrambled guinea hen eggs from Lake Meadow Naturals, thyme, and shaved piave vecchio. An earthy, meltingly delicious bite.

According to Wikipedia, though records of chanterelles being eaten date back to the 1500s, they first gained widespread recognition as a culinary delicacy with the spreading influence of French cuisine in the 1700s, where they began appearing in palace kitchens. For many years, they remained notable for being served at the tables of nobility. Chanterelles are common in northern parts of Europe and North America, including Mexico, in Asia including the Himalayas, and in Africa including Zambia. They 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, the golden chanterelle is often found in beech forests among similar species and forms. Jesse kindly answered my (immediate!) quest for answers to his relationship with this special mushroom, typically harvested wild in the springtime.  Here is his response below. The next question is… When do we get more?  I think they are 86 in the kitchen right now!

I hunted mushrooms in Florence, OR ten years ago with my uncle Don. He taught me how to identify chanterelles. I love being outdoors and foraging for food is exciting to me so I continued hunting mushrooms every season all over the Oregon Cascades and Coastal mountain ranges. Some of my most memorable finds include a 10 foot square patch of Cyanescens on the Oregon coast, many small Hericium clusters on Mount Jefferson, and the chantrelle patch I manage here in Tallahassee. There are a lot of Black Trumpets here in the swamp which I am hoping to find a big clump any day. I have never found one but I am very interested in the Truffles that grow in Pecan Plantations north of Tallahassee and through Georgia. Chantrelles are real easy to find here. They grow in a lot of peoples yards even. My patch covers around 20 acres. I usually harvest for 3 hours and can get up to 6# mushrooms. Timing your harvests is everything once you have identified a good patch. I watch over my areas from the very beginning of the season so I am in tune with the changes in the forest. If you dont pick your mushrooms soon enough worms with infest them very quickly. My favorite chantrelles are the bite size ones. I pick them sparingly though because I want most of the mushrooms to grow to maturity. Tiny ones make such an awesome garnish I cant help but pick a few. As well as picking mushrooms I work for Publix as a Sous Chef in the Tallahassee Cooking School,  and I am the Chef at the Center for Global Engagement at FSU. I am going out tomorrow so I will take some more pictures.

Thanks,

Jesse

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