Chanterelles are a regularly foraged mushroom with more than 40 varieties growing across the US. With a variety of bright and colorful options to choose from, my personal favorite is, instead, the dark and delicious black trumpet.
“Black trumpet” is one of many common names for Craterellus fallax(If you’re in the US) and Craterellus cornucopioides(If you’re in Europe.) They are also known as black chanterelle, trumpet of the dead, horn of plenty or horn of death. In this post, I’ll be primarily focused on Craterellus fallax, though the differences between the two are minor. Both are small, funnel shaped mushrooms that are generally black or dark brown inside the funnel and gray on the outside with veins, as opposed to gills. In spite of Craterellus fallax’s gloomy exterior, the spore print is more sunshiny ranging from yellow-orange to pink-orange. Their scent is described as dark and sweet like overripe apricots. Being shadow-colored and growing only 1 to 4 inches tall, black trumpet can be difficult to spot among the forest litter. So it’s important to know when and where to look.
Here on the east coast of the US, black trumpets can be found from May to November. They prefer hardwood forests, particularly in damp, decaying areas. Looking for oak trees, moss and gold/smooth chanterelles can help point you in the right direction. Dark hillsides near creeks or streams are another great place to start. Black trumpets often grows in large numbers, so if you go looking for them, make sure to bring your basket along.
Black trumpets are a choice edible mushroom. It’s flavor is complex. Rich and earthy, fruity and woodsy in all the best ways. If you intend to eat the black trumpets you find, start by cutting off the dirty end and brushing any loose dirt or bugs off each funnel right where you pick it. At home, wash your mushrooms with cool water. Keep in mind that black trumpets can turn things black or grey, so your water may not run clear even once the mushrooms are clean. Unlike other choice mushrooms, black trumpet can be eaten raw in small amounts(such as a garnish), but I would not recommend eating any wild found mushroom raw. Black trumpets can also be dried for later re-hydrating and cooking. They cook very fast, so keep an eye on them. With such big flavor, black trumpets do not require much to become a perfect dish. When we found a big patch of them in August, we were camping and had few ingredients to work with. We decided to put our sauteed black trumpets on minute rice and we couldn’t believe how delicious and elevated the flavor was!
We found our patch of black trumpet entirely by accident! Our cabin was at the top of a steep hill over a little creek and it had been raining for several days before we arrived. As we drove around the site, I noticed lots of little yellow bunches popping up on the hillside. The moment we parked I started exploring the area and taking photos of all the mushroom varieties I found. There were so many! Fragile brittle gill, green cracked russula, viscud violet cort, califlower fungus and destroying angel to list just a few. The yellow patches we’d seen ended up being smooth chanterelle. At one point, I leaned over to take a picture and glanced up to see lots of little black funnels sticking out around the moss. It was my most exciting find and I totally would have missed them if I hadn’t stopped to look at it’s bright chanterelle cousin.
Black trumpet has no close lookalikes, making it’s a great beginner mushroom. So go check out a few other sources to build your knowledge and confidence, then head out into the woods to find a few of these tasty fungi! Remember, never munch on a hunch. Happy foraging!
Get your own black trumpet/horn of plenty magnet here!