Black Trumpet Mushrooms
The black trumpet is one of my favorite wild mushrooms. Don't let its unremarkable appearance fool you; this is one of the best tasting fungi you'll ever find.
Black trumpets are considered a gourmet edible mushroom. They have a smoky, rich flavor and a pleasant, fruity aroma. There are no poisonous look alikes, making this a great mushroom for beginners to identify.
Unfortunately they're not always easy to find. Their dark color and strange shape make them look like little black holes on the forest floor. Many a time have people looked right at them without realizing the treat before their very eyes!
This article goes into more detail on black trumpet mushrooms. We'll start with some basic facts to give you more information about your quarry. Then we'll move on to the important stuff, identification and where to find them. I'll end with some cooking tips and a few easy mushroom recipes.
- Black trumpets are shaped like a funnel and come in a brown, gray, or black color. The edges of the cap are rolled outwards and wavy.
- One of the most noticeable things about black trumpets is that they have no gills or other visible spore-bearing structures (such as pores or teeth). The underside of their caps will always be smooth to slightly wrinkled.
- Black trumpets are thought to be both saprotrophic (feeding on dead organic matter) and mycorrhizal (creating symbiotic relationships with the roots of plants). Their precise ecological role is not yet fully understood.
- The most common species of is Craterellus cornucopioides. Other species do exist, such as Craterellus foetidus.
- Other common names of Craterellus cornucopioides are "trumpet of death" and "horn of plenty". As they're closely related to chanterelles they're also known as the "black chanterelle".
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Finding and Mushroom Identification
Identification of black trumpets is not very difficult. Finding them, however, can be.
That's not because they fruit in remote places. You may have an incredible patch of black trumpets nearby. Yet their dark gray appearance makes them very hard to spot on the forest floor.
The trick to finding them lies in knowing where and how to look. Keep these tips in mind when choosing a mushroom hunting location:
- Hardwood forests, especially near oak and beech. These mushrooms do not fruit on wood, but near it. You won't find a lot of black trumpets at the very base of a tree.
- Near mossy areas. I've often found them fruiting in or near patches of thick green moss on the side of trails. The contrast of their dark color against the moss makes them easier to see.
- Near washes and small streams. On the edge of small streams on hills and trails is a great place to look. They seem to like damp, dark areas. No roaring rivers, just smaller seasonal streams.
- When looking, walk slowly and look directly down. They are very easy to miss unless you're standing right over them. Take your time when examining the leaf litter.
They grow in clusters, especially on the West Coast. So if you find one, stop and carefully look around. There may be many more nearby.
As for identification, there are no poisonous look alikes. This fact, along with their unique appearance, makes them a good mushroom for beginners.
Examine the pictures and the list of identification features below. You'll quickly get a feel for how they should look. That said, if you're a true beginner always check with an expert before eating something you find. I never support mushroom identification based solely on what you've read on the Internet. Even with mushrooms as tasty as these!
Funnel or vase shaped with a gray, brown, or black color. They sometimes flare out at the end with wavy edges. The underside is just a smooth surface with no gills, pores, or teeth. The inside of the cap may or may not be covered in small scales. (Craterellus foetidus has a wrinkled underside but still not real gills.)
Up to a few inches tall and the same color, or just slightly lighter than, the cap. The inside of the stem is hollow. The flesh itself is thin and easily broken.
Take special note of the texture of the black trumpet. They're smooth or just slightly wrinkled with a soft feel to them. I think they feel a lot like suede.
White to a pinkish salmon color.
Time of Year
Summer and fall, through the winter in California.
Sometimes confused with Urnula craterium, the devil's urn (right). Fortunately the devil's urn is not poisonous, it's just not as tasty. They have a more cup-like appearance in fruit in the spring (black trumpets fruit in the summer and fall).
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Black trumpets are popular edible mushrooms. They have a rich, smoky flavor that is far better experienced than described.
Their deep flavor works well in many recipes. They're a great addition to soups, sauces, pasta dishes, seafood recipes, or meals with any sort of meat. Basically anything without a lot of other strong tasting ingredients that will overshadow your delicious trumpets!
If picking them from the wild, be sure to clean them well before eating, as they can be gritty. Since the flesh is so brittle simply tear them apart by hand and gently wipe the insides and outsides clean. If you see a lot of dirt it's okay to give them a quick rinse.
Black trumpets hold their flavor and keep very well dried. If you have too many, dry them out in a dehydrator or on a sheet in the oven on the lowest setting. The dried mushrooms can then be chopped or powdered, and used to add flavor to recipes or white wines.
Add your dried mushroom powder to rice dishes, or even couscous. Use it to make flavored butter. Once you start thinking about it as a spice you'll love how it can be used to flavor so many meals!
Below are two easy mushroom recipes. The first one is a simple sauté that allows their rich taste to shine. The other uses them as a topping for fish.
Simple Trumpet Sauté
- 8 oz fresh black trumpets
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 cans vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 tbsp olive oil (or unsalted butter)
Heat oil in large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté garlic for about 2 minutes.
Add cleaned mushrooms, and cook for about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and serve. Easy!
Salmon with Trumpet Sauce
- 2 - 4 medium salmon filets
- 3/4 - 1 lb fresh black trumpets, chopped (the more, the better!)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup chopped green onion
- 1/2 cup broth (vegetable, chicken, fish, whatever works for you)
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 stick butter
These instructions are for the mushroom topping. Cook the fish according to the directions on the packaging.
In a heavy skillet on medium heat, melt the butter. Once it's melted, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
Add your cleaned and chopped black trumpets and sauté them for 5 minutes. Next add the chopped green onion and cook until they're slightly wilted, usually another minute or two.
Add the wine and broth. Continue to cook until the volume of all the liquids is reduced by about half.
Remove from heat and season with any desired salt and pepper. Serve on top of the cooked salmon.
- Add a few tbsp of cream after the liquids are reduced.
- Season with a tsp or your favorite herb.
- Using dried mushrooms instead of fresh works fine too. Reconstitute them by simmering in white wine.
- A few tbsp of lemon or orange juice adds a citrus flavor to the fish mixture.
Hopefully these recipes and info will help you gain an appreciation for the black trumpet. Now the next time you're in the woods, don't forget to look for those black holes!
Types of Mushrooms
Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms
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The first picture was taken by Wolfgang Wallner and is published on Wikipedia under the GNU Free Documentation License.
The second picture was taken by Jean-Pol GRANDMONT and is published on Wikipedia under the GNU Free Documentation License.
The fourth picture (devil's urn) was taken by Alan Cressler and is published on Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License.
The last picture was taken by Tomasz Przechlewski and is published on Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.