As a professional botanist, I don’t know my mushrooms well, but I am working to learn more. This fall, I’m sharing some easily identified, beginner-level species so you can learn too! This is one I was very excited to see: meet the Black Trumpet (Craterellus fallax, Photo 1).
These Trumpets appeared in mid-October, well-camouflaged among leaf litter in a damp, mossy forest. Although guidebooks say to look for Black Trumpets under Oak and Beech, this was a primarily coniferous woodland. If we hadn’t been on the ground collecting Hedgehogs (mushrooms, not mammals), we’d likely have walked right past them.
Black Trumpets are beautiful members of the Chanterelle group (sometimes called Black Chanterelles) and like their more commonly-found cousins, they have folds rather than gills under the cap (Photo 2). Also like Chanterelles, Black Trumpets grow directly from the soil. Look for them on the forest floor, rather than at the base of trees or on downed wood.
As their name suggests, these mushrooms are trumpet shaped: hollow in the middle, narrow at the base, and widest at the end. They have a very pleasant earthy smell that I’d describe as a combination of humus and ripe cheese with a hint of fruity sweetness. Black Trumpets can be hard to find, but they are choice edibles that are not easily mistaken for anything else, and so I include them on my list of good species for novice foragers.
These are delicate little mushrooms and I only collected about four ounces (110 grams), so I decided to forego my usual pan-fried taste test and head straight to a recipe: Black Trumpet salt (Photo 3). The result makes an interesting finishing salt that tastes very much like the fresh mushroom smelled. It pairs well with eggs, and I found it particularly nice as garnish on farinata (Photo 4). (You can find my recipes for both Black Trumpet Salt and farinata here: https://www.pei-untamed.com/post/black-trumpet-salt-and-kate-s-farinata). Black Trumpets dry well, and in hindsight that’s what I should have done with my first finds. Next time, I’ll simply dry them to get more of the pure Black Trumpet flavour.
Wild mushrooms get a bit of a bad rap in North America, and I find many people reluctant to try (or sometimes even touch) them. Yes, there are toxic species, but even the most poisonous mushroom can’t hurt you unless you swallow it. Some of the deadliest plants in North America grow here on the Island, and we have species that can cut, sting or burn you – things no mushroom can do. Our Island is home to many beautiful and ecologically important fungi, including some easily identified and delicious species. I hope introducing you to some of these will encourage you to explore this part of PEI untamed!