03 MAY 2022

Have you ever contemplated and been amazed by how you never have to look for another once you have established your secret chanterelle spot? Because, indeed, if you were to return to your hidden forest glade just a week after your last visit, the chance of finding a new astounding golden ocean of chantarelles is relatively large.

 

The explanation? Basic fungal morphology! What we refer to as the chanterelle mushroom is, in fact, just a tiny part of the fungal organism called the fungal fruiting body. The central part of the fungi lives underground as thread-like strands known as mycelium, which stretch long sprawl distances, entangled in surrounding tree roots. Like trees and bushes spread through seeds in their fruits and berries, the chanterelle fruiting bodies we pick contain spores produced in reproductive structures under their hats and down their feet. If caught by the wind, the spores can travel great distances, away from their parental mycelium, to settle down and start a new underground network, resulting in another golden ocean.

 

Like the fungi in the forest produce chantarelle fruiting bodies, our fungi have fluffy microscopic fruiting bodies. Spores are used to creating microscopic filaments called hyphae. Since grown in a liquid environment, the spore derived filaments produce only a few (or none) fruiting bodies. Instead, these filaments entangle and coalesce into large macroscopic structures, comparable to the chantarelle’s mycelium, which are relied on when producing our protein-rich edible biomass.

 

However, if we return to the forest, there are reasons for people keeping their chantarelle glades secret. You see, some fungi tend to be quite picky. Suppose the travelling chantarelle spore is to settle down and start networking. In that case, the forest location cannot be anything but top-notch. The glade needs to be within reach of the autumn sun, peeping out from behind the rain clouds that optimally hoover above, and release heavy rains on, the glade at regular intervals, keeping the soil moisturised perfectly.

Meanwhile, the temperature and the pH in the soil can neither be too high nor too low. The chantarelles even prefer specific kinds of trees and bushes surrounding them (!) with which they create unique and symbiotic underground relationships, supplying each other with water and nutrients. So, if you’ve ever experienced long and patience-testing forest trips without finding a single mushroom and not understanding why – that’s your answer.