This is my favourite time of the year: the beginning of mushroom season. Technically speaking, you can find edible wild mushrooms of some kind almost all year round, but for me it only starts to get exciting when these beautiful trumpet-shaped golden beauties start to poke through the mossy undergrowth in the forest. Strolling through the woodland and finding them is a true joy, and there's something very special about the first ones of the season.
Girolles, otherwise known as chanterelles, are a strong contender for the most prized of the wild mushrooms, contested only by the Cep (aka Porcini), the Morel and possibly the Mousseron (aka Fairy Ring Champignon). These others are admittedly more powerful in flavour, more scarce and correspondingly more expensive, but for me, Girolles are still the best; allow me to explain why.
1. They're easy to find
If you walk regularly through the woods from July through to September/October, you are very likely to encounter some Girolles at some point. If you're specifically out looking for mushrooms, don't be disheartened at not finding anything. Visit a variety of woodland on a regular basis. Persistence will pay off. On a good day you could harvest a bounty of at few kilograms or more. Combine this with the summer sun and you will be in a very happy place!
2. They return year after year
Each place I've picked Girolles provides a reliable supply the following season. The number of mushrooms you harvest on a given year does not seem to reduce the number available the following year – if anything it seems to increase year-on-year! I cannot say the same for Ceps, sadly. One year I found about 15 kilos of Ceps in a forest in the Scottish Borders, but subsequent years did not yield even close to that amount.
3. You'll never find a maggot in a Girolle
Ceps can be sometimes be ridden with maggots, especially the more mature ones, which can be a huge disappointment, especially if you find a large number of them. This doesn't happen with Girolles. I have picked thousands and thousands of them and not a single one contained maggots.
4. Cooking them produces an epic sauce
Fry them with salt and butter then add a small splash of water – a delicious liquor will be released. Reduced down slightly and then thickened with cream and/or butter will produce a knock-your-socks-off delicious sauce. It's hard to describe in words how good this tastes, you'll need to try it yourself to find out.
5. They are versatile
The best way to enjoy Girolles is sautéed in butter with a little garlic and parsley, on toast. It's so simple but really is hard to beat. However, they keep their shape and texture admirably well in a stew or curry, will transform a risotto into something truly great, and can be pickled or dried and made into powder to preserve them for enjoyment throughout the year.
And that is why, in my humble opinion, the Girolle is the greatest mushroom of all time. What are you waiting for? Get to the woods and go find some!