The hunt for winter chanterelles

Dave Gregovich, Wildlife Habitat Analyst for ADF&G and local mushroom lover (Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO)

Dave Gregovich, Wildlife Habitat Analyst for the Department of Fish and Game, is a mushroom lover on the hunt for winter chanterelles. He begins the search in a forest near the North Douglas Highway, looking for areas of hemlock trees and blueberries.

“It’s not a super specialized mushroom,” Gregovich said. “Most places where you have old growth forest have at least a few winter chanterelles.”

Edible mushrooms found in Southeast Alaska can be gathered throughout the fall and into early winter, but winter chanterelles have very distinct characteristics that make them particularly easy to identify, especially for novice growers.

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Winter chanterelles (right) have ridges under the cap rather than the sharp gills of other mushroom species (left) (Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO)

“A lot of mushrooms have these really sharp, blade-like gills on the underside of the cap. But winter chanterelles have such grooves on the underside of the cap,” said Gregovich. “And they are shaped like a funnel. They have a hole at the top that ends in a hollow stem.”

Winter chanterelles are small, so it takes a few for one meal. And their texture can be pretty wet when you bring them home. But they’re really good to eat, Gregovich said.

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Winter chanterelles have a funnel-shaped cap with a hole in the center and a hollow stem (Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO)

“What I like to do is put them under a fan for about an hour, with no heat,” he said. “And the other thing you can do is you can dry sauté them. Before adding any oil or butter, just dry them in the pan and let some of the water evaporate from the mushrooms.”

In the temperate rainforest of Southeast Alaska, mushrooms almost always have plenty of moisture and good growing conditions in their environment.

“But one thing is, you really don’t see most of these mushrooms until early August, mid-August, and that’s when they really start popping.” said Gregovich. “Some species, including the winter chanterelle, can occur in November or even December.”

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There are hundreds of mushroom species around Juneau. But Gregovich advises the average collector to stick to the four that are easiest to identify: winter chanterelles, golden chanterelles, porcini (aka king mushrooms), and grouse.

“So you can just stick with those four species and find something that’s easy to identify and that’s good to eat,” he said.

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