Craterellus cornucopioides, or horn of plenty, is an edible mushroom. It is also known as the black chanterelle, black trumpet, trompette de la mort (French), trombetta dei morti (Italian) or trumpet of the dead.
The Cornucopia, in Greek mythology, referred to the magnificent horn of the nymph Amalthea’s goat (or of herself in goat form), that filled itself with whatever meat or drink its owner requested. It has become the symbol of plenty.
A possible origin for the name “trumpet of the dead” is that the growing mushrooms were seen as being played as trumpets by dead people under the ground.
The fruiting body does not have a separation into stalk and cap, but is shaped like a funnel expanded at the top, normally up to about 10 cm (4 in) tall and 7 cm (3 in) in diameter (but said to grow exceptionally to 15 cm (6 in). The upper and inner surface is black or dark grey, and the lower and outer fertile surface is a much lighter shade of grey. The fertile surface is more or less smooth but may be somewhat wrinkled.
The size of the elliptical spores is in the range 10–17 µm × 6–11 µm. The basidia are two-spored.
Distribution and habitat
This fungus is found in woods in North America, Europe, Japan and Korea. Mainly it grows under beech, oak or other broad-leaved trees, especially in moss in moist spots on heavy calcareous soil. In Europe it is generally common but seems to be rare in some countries such as the Netherlands. It appears from June to November, and in the UK, from August to November.
The mushroom is usually almost black, and it is hard to find because of its dark colour, which easily blends in with the leaf litter on the forest floor. Hunters of this mushroom say it is like looking for black holes in the ground.
Craterellus cornucopioides has a smooth spore-bearing surface, but the rare and not very closely related Cantharellus cinereus has rudimentary gills. The colour and smooth undersurface make C. cornucopioides very distinctive.
The forms Craterellus fallax (with a different spore colour en masse) and Craterellus konradii (with a yellowish fruiting body) have been defined as separate species, but DNA studies now show that the latter should be considered part of C. cornucopioides
Horns of plenty are edible and sought after. According to a Portuguese study, 100 grams of dried C. cornucopioidescontain 69.45 g of protein, 13.44 g of carbohydrates (mostly mannitol, a sugar alcohol) and 4.88 g of fat, amounting to 378 calories. They contain fatty acids, primarily of the polyunsaturated variety, as well as phenols, flavonoids and 87 mg of vitamin C.
They look rather unattractive, but have a very good flavour. When dried their flavour even improves, acquiring black truffle notes.
One French cook-book specializing in mushrooms has eight different recipes for this one species (terrine, soufflé, marinade, tajine, fricassée, …)