The yellowfoots surprise me.
I’m down at the creek, between the trail and the creek, really, when I stumble upon them. Call them winter chanterelles, yellowfoot chanterelles, funnel mushrooms, like the Fins do. Craterellus tubaeformis—their official name—arrive at my feet in a surprising bounty. Yellowfoots I had not been expecting. Not here in Michigan at least, although I don’t know why not.
They grow, hornlike, out of marshy ground; sprout below decaying logs. Soon, I find them everywhere. They are as orange as a farm-fresh egg; delicate and determined all at once. They nod on still oranger stems, like mycological flowers.
Once I discover them, I can’t keep away. I return to the scene often, sometimes in broad daylight, sometimes at dusk when they are hard to spot. Each time, I come away with handfuls—basketsful. Their scent lingers long after I’m home.
And that scent, I am hungry to define it. It wafts out of everything—the bag, the basket, the pan, my hair.
Earlier this summer I met a sommelier, with whom I shared a shocking amount in common. He liked books, and wine, and the mycological world, too. I taught him to find mushrooms just about everywhere. For a while, at least.
Our love affair may have been brief, but standing in the woods, gathering yellowfoots by the gallon full, I cannot help but wish him here. I want that keen nose, that insight, to help me decipher the mushrooms’ scent. To help me give it name.
Instead, I go it alone; inhale it deeply. There is a fruitiness to these mushrooms, more so even than true chanterelles to me. That scent is pitted, not seed. Never cloying. Stumbling along the trail with my nose in my bag it’s peach, I land in first. A small, wild, deeply ripe peach. Or, better still, apricot, small and firm. Then underneath that, rising up from the soft waft of fruit, is the hint of forest floor. Then comes the clean cold spring water that bubbles beneath that viridescent, sun struck moss where these yellowfoot abound.
Later, out of the woods and out of the swamp the smell of them lingers on me. It envelopes me so that sometimes I catch it just after I have turned. There’s the umami, the fruitiness, the hint of autumn, and icy stream. On my skin, in my hair, long after I’ve left the woods the mushroomed scent remains, a tattoo of memory.
Yellowfoot Chanterelle Pasta
Yellowfoot chanterelles, cleaned
Boil fettuccine (good fettucine) in salted water.
Saute the yellowfoots in light butter, pushing the mushrooms to the edge of the pan as needed to prevent overcooking and to reduce the liquid they exude as possible.
Drain pasta, retaining a scant amount of pasta water.
Toss pasta with mushrooms and further reduce any broth. Throw in a handful or two of arugula and toss to wilt. Grate in a teaspoon or less of lemon zest, add a generous pinch of salt and toss.
Serve in bowls and top with grated parmesan.
Eat with wild abandon.
This recipe works exceptionally well with any of the more delicate mushrooms in the chanterelle family. One favorite is yellowfoot and black trumpet mushrooms, or cinnabar and black trumpets.
Yellowfoot chanterelle pasta with rocket.