July (2010) Mushroom of the month was ...
Black Trumpets (Craterellus cornucopioides)
Black Trumpets (aka horn-of-plenty) mushrooms are a wonderful edible mushroom that grows in Michigan from July through September. They are fragile mushrooms that look like a cornucopia (horn-of-plenty) or maybe like trumpets but are black or gray instead of gold. Despite somewhat funereal descriptions and European names (trompette de la morte in French and trombetta dei morti in Italian), they are very tasty mushrooms that can be widely used in cooking. They are strongly flavored mushrooms with a fragrant aroma. Their strong flavor and aroma allows them to be used in a wide variety of dishes. Though they are difficult to find, they are definitely worth pursuing. Fortunately, they grow in clusters so there often are many where one is found.
The only mushrooms that closely resemble trumpets are closely related species, the fragrant black trumpet (C. foetidus) and the black chanterelle (C. cinereus). The fragrant black trumpet, which has false gills or wrinkles on the outer surface unlike the smooth surface of the black trumpet, is also an excellent edible more fleshy than the black trumpets but also more susceptible to insect infestation. The black chanterelle is not fragrant and is not tubular, opening to vase shaped like the black trumpets. C. cinereus also has false gills on the outer surface resembling the false gills of the chanterelle. Black chanterelles are also good edibles according to some guidebooks and the author but are listed as poor edibles by some other guide books. If you find black chanterelles, separate them from finds of black trumpets, with which they often co-occur, to taste. The common fiber base, Thelephora vialis, appears similar but is tough and leathery without the fragrant aroma.
The black trumpets have a tubular shape with in-rolled edges when young but soon open up into a deeply funnel shape with cap edges that are irregularly lobed with wavy margins. The interior of the cap is black so that one sometimes finds these elusive edibles by seeing holes in the ground as one looks directly downward. The exterior of the cap is black or dark brown usually but sometimes is salmon; the exterior is usually smooth but occasionally it is slightly veined or wrinkled. After spores develop the outer surface is gray to off-white. The stem is an extension of the funnel shaped cap and is tubular (hollow). The mushroom can grow to three inches high and four inches wide but most specimens are somewhat smaller.
Trumpets are ideal for sophisticated dishes because of their fragrant aroma and strong flavor. Because of their fragrant aroma they are often dried and pulverized for use as a seasoning for everything from soup to steak. They are very easy to dry requiring only a few hours in a dehydrator or a couple of days of open air drying. They are delicious sautéed in butter with parsley and chives as a side dish. Trumpets are consistently high rated by those who have tried them. Your treasurer and your president consider them as their favorite mushroom.