Black trumpet mushrooms, also known by their Latin name of Craterellus cornucopioides, are considered one of the best-tasting fungi. They are edible wild mushrooms that, as their name suggests, have the distinct shape of a black trumpet and can be found throughout European and North American forests.
They are also easy to identify and have no poisonous lookalikes, unlike many other mushroom species, making black trumpet mushrooms great for beginning foragers.
Many names, such as: know black trumpets
- Horn of Plenty
- Black Chanterelle
- Devil’s Trumpet / Devil’s Horn
- Trumpet of the Dead (trompette de la mort in French and trombetta dei morti in Italian)
The rest of this article will tell you everything you need to know about black trumpet mushrooms, including when and where to find them and how to prepare them for your next culinary experiment.
Fast Facts About Black Trumpet Mushrooms
- Black trumpet mushrooms are shaped like funnels or vases, and while they are usually black, they come in a variety of dark colors such as black, gray, and even brown.
- The wavy caps curl away from the elongated body of the mushroom, creating a funnel shaped structure. The underside of the caps usually smooth but is sometimes slightly wrinkled.
- Unlike many other mushroom species, black trumpet mushrooms don’t have gills, teeth, pores, or any visible spore-bearing structures.
- While not much is known about their ecological role, black trumpet mushrooms are both saprotrophic (feeding on the dead, organic tissue) and mycorrhizal (creating a symbiosis with tree roots).
- They are closely related to chanterelle mushrooms and often grow in the same places where chanterelles are found, which is why they are also known as black chanterelles.
Why are Black Trumpets Special?
Despite their ease of identification, black trumpet mushrooms are very rare and difficult to find. In drought years, they can be almost impossible to find, as they won’t grow and will remain dormant if they don’t receive enough rain.
Their unique appearance differs from that of many other mushrooms.
If you find a patch of black trumpets, you can count yourself very lucky because they will return in the same spot each season (provided they aren’t affected by drought).
Black trumpet mushrooms are also unique in how they grow, being both saprotrophic (feeding off dead tissue, such as dead wood and leaf litter) and mycorrhizal (meaning they develop a symbiotic relationship with tree roots). Most mushrooms are either one or the other.
Their taste is also very unique and unlike any other mushroom, save for the chanterelle. Their taste has been described as earthy, smoky, with a fruity aroma.
Their taste certainly makes for a unique culinary experience and makes it unsurprising why black trumpets are so coveted among the culinary community.
What do Black Trumpet Mushrooms Look and Feel Like?
Here we will run down each part of this unique fungus.
The cap of the black trumpet mushroom is shaped like a vase, with wavy edges that are rolled outwards like the edge of a trumpet. The underside can be smooth or slightly wrinkled. The mushrooms have no gills, teeth, or spores.
The black trumpet mushroom’s hollow stem is short, usually growing between 1 – 4 inches tall. The stem’s color is often slightly lighter than the cap but can also be the same color.
The black trumpet mushroom’s texture is soft and velvety and has been described as similar to suede. The stem can easily be broken when foraging despite its softness and flexibility.
The spore print of the black trumpet mushroom is pink, white, and sometimes yellow.
Do Black Trumpet Mushrooms have any Lookalikes?
One of the best qualities about the black trumpet mushroom is that they don’t have any poisonous lookalikes, which makes them a good species for beginning foragers.
However, this doesn’t mean that the black trumpet mushroom doesn’t have any lookalikes. When identifying black trumpet mushrooms, remember the features of the following lookalikes.
The Devil’s Urn (Edible)
The Devil’s urn (Urnula craterium) is similar in size and shape to the black trumpet, but the two are not closely related and separate species altogether.
Their dark color, size, edibility, and hollow stem are features the two mushrooms have in common; there are distinct differences foragers should be aware of so as not to confuse one for the other.
- Cap – where the edges of the cap curl outward on the black trumpet mushroom, the edges of the cap on the Devil’s urn curl inward, creating a cup shape.
- Texture – black trumpet mushrooms are soft and somewhat velvety, while the Devil’s urn feels tough and rubbery to the touch, with the texture and appearance of tire rubber.
- Growing season – the peak season for Devil’s urn is the spring, where black trumpets fruit during the summer.
- Taste – while this mushroom is edible, its bitter taste and tough texture doesn’t make it nearly as popular as the black trumpet mushroom.
Blue Chanterelles (Edible)
Aside from the regular golden chanterelles, there are also blue chanterelles, which are just as tasty. Because the black trumpet mushroom is closely related to chanterelles, it is no surprise why it can sometimes be mistaken for blue chanterelles.
Blue chanterelles are similar to black trumpet mushrooms in shape, size, and texture. However, there are some distinct differences that foragers can spot.
- Color – blue chanterelles are typically deep blue and purple
- Location – blue chanterelles grow almost exclusively in North America, so if you are a black trumpet enthusiast in Europe, you’ll unlikely encounter this common lookalike.
- Growing – blue chanterelles grow in large clusters at least 10 inches across, with clusters sometimes growing to 3 feet in diameter. Black trumpets grow individually out of the ground and not in clusters.
Pig Ears / Violet Chanterelles (Somewhat Edible)
Pig ears share the same vase shape as black trumpets and can sometimes have similar coloring. However, they have deeper and more pronounced wrinkles on the underside. Other differences include:
- Color – pig ears range from pinkish brown to lavender, and these colors can be confused with lighter-colored black trumpets.
- Location – pig ears are usually found at elevations above 2000 ft.
- Growing – they always grow in fused clusters near conifer trees.
- Edibility – pig ears are edible when they are young, and it’s important to cook them thoroughly before eating. Older pig ears have been known to cause gastrointestinal distress when eaten.
Where Can I Find Black Trumpet Mushrooms?
Black trumpet mushrooms are most commonly found in Europe and in North America. In North America, they can be found in the northern United States and Canada.
While black trumpets usually fruit from mossy forest floors, they have also been found in sandier forest soil along the U.S’s east and west coasts, and in Northern California.
North American vs. European Black Trumpet Mushrooms
There is some debate among the scientific community over whether the black trumpet mushrooms found in North America are a different species than the European variety.
While the European black trumpet mushroom is the most well known and is known as Craterellus cornucopioides, a type that grows in North America is known by the Latin name of Craterellus fallax.
The two varieties have no significant differences, but they are unofficially treated as two different species.
How do Black Trumpet Mushrooms Grow?
Unlike many wild mushroom species, black trumpets grow from the forest floor, usually from thick green moss and near small streams. They don’t grow from trunks, stumps, fallen logs, or clusters like other mushrooms.
While they can grow close together, they grow individually from mossy areas.
Black trumpets are a finicky fungus that will grow as long as the conditions are ideal. Otherwise, they will remain dormant.
Black trumpets grow in hardwood forests from the forest floor itself instead of on the roots or bases of trees. They can also be found along the temperate forests along both the west coast and east coast of the United States.
Can I Cultivate Black Trumpet Mushrooms Myself?
Given that black trumpet mushrooms can be difficult to find in the wild, it is tempting to want to grow them yourself in your yard or a greenhouse.
However, black trumpet mushrooms are finicky and require conditions that can only be duplicated in the wild and have defied any attempts to grow them commercially.
When is Black Trumpet Mushroom Hunting Season?
In Europe, black trumpets grow during the mid to late summer, from mid-July to August. In North America, however, black trumpet season is between November and March.
Because of their dark color and their likelihood of growing from leaf litter, it can be difficult to spot black trumpets on the forest floor.
How do I Cook Black Trumpet Mushrooms?
One of the greatest features of black trumpet mushrooms is that they don’t need much to bring out their flavor.
When preparing black trumpet mushroom recipes, remember that they can sometimes taste a little bitter when raw. To counteract this, add adding a type of fat – like butter or cream.
One of the best and simplest ways to avoid masking their unique flavor with other strong ingredients is to sauté them with butter, a little bit of garlic, and white wine.
This method is considered one of the best ways to prepare black trumpets, whether you are adding them to pasta dishes, seafood recipes, rice, etc.
They are an excellent addition to pasta dishes, and adding a cream sauce will bring out their natural flavor without overwhelming it.
Their rich flavor is known to pair well with caramelized onions.
One of the lesser-known qualities of the black trumpet mushroom is that it can be used as a spice, not unlike truffles, and adds a distinctive aroma to dishes.
To use black trumpet mushrooms as a spice, it is important to dehydrate the mushrooms before using them fully. They can be used whole, finely chopped, or powdered.
Black trumpet mushrooms can be reconstituted and added to soups, stews, and pasta dishes. Don’t forget to also add the liquid in which they were reconstituted for maximum culinary effect.
Chopped black trumpet mushrooms can be added to rice dishes, or infused with cream or broth to add flavor to sauces and gravies.
Powdered black trumpet mushrooms can be used as a seasoning on fish, chicken, or other meat before cooking.
How to Dehydrate Black Trumpet Mushrooms?
If you are lucky enough to find a patch where these coveted mushrooms grow in abundance, it’s likely you’ll find far more fresh black trumpets than you can eat in one sitting.
Fortunately, black trumpet mushrooms are easy to dehydrate and don’t lose their flavor when dried. You can lay them out in a safe, dry place at room temperature and plenty of ventilation where they won’t be disturbed. However, it may take days and weeks to dry out fully, depending on the humidity level.
If you are impatient or the mushrooms are particularly damp, you can place them in the oven at the lowest setting for a few hours to dry them out quicker or in a food dehydrator.
Once dehydrated, you can store black trumpet mushrooms in a mason jar or other glass container.
How do I Know when the Mushrooms are Fully Dehydrated?
You’ll know if the mushrooms are fully dehydrated if they are brittle to the touch and break easily, like a cracker. Then it’s safe to store the dried mushrooms.
What do Black Trumpet Mushrooms Taste Like?
As mentioned above, black trumpet mushrooms have a unique earthy and smoky flavor that is highly favored and sought after in the culinary community.
Black trumpets are considered some of the best-tasting wild mushrooms there are, their flavor on par with other popular wild mushrooms such as chanterelles, morels, and even truffles. So is it any surprise why chefs refer to this delicious fungus as the black chanterelle?