Horn of Plenty

Craterellus cornucopioides, known in Romania as the trumpet (mushroom) of the dead, dwarf trumpet, cornucopia, black trumpet or autumn sponge, is an edible fungus from the phylum Basidiomycota of the order Cantharellales, in the family Cantharellaceae and of the genus Craterellus, whose epithet is derived from the Latin word (Latin cornucopia=horn of plenty). This species, which coexists, being a mycorrhizal symbiont (forms mycorrhizae on the roots of trees), is very widespread in Romania, Bassarabia and Northern Bucovina and grows in groups, developing primarily in deciduous forests (especially under beech trees, but also under oaks and lindens), sometimes in mixed forests with conifers, which enjoy heavy, calcareous, clayey and very moist soils. Beginning in August, the important emergence season is from mid-September to late autumn in November, before the first frost.
The body has a height of 5-12 cm, a width of 3-8 cm and the shape of an open trumpet or funnel, covered with very fine scales on the inner face that extends to the base of the leg, being black in color with soot tones and blackish-brown, often scaly-scaly. The edge is wavy, bent, thin and flexible. The layer of fruit that stretches over the stem almost to the base, is smooth at first, then longitudinally wrinkled with the appearance of perches, gloomy, being gray or bluish-gray, black when wet. The visible foot is blackish, tubular, and mushy.

The whole organism is thin, viscous, almost woody in age with a faint smell of plums, similar to yellow sponge, having a raw unpleasant taste of dust. After preparation it is a very tasty mushroom.

Rarer variations are yellowish-colored specimens, which were previously separated as an independent species under the name Craterellus konradii, but this sponge is only a pigmentary anomaly of the toadstool, a fact recently proven by a DNA examination.

The best way to store is dry. Only then do the mushrooms develop their aroma as well as their extraordinary taste, reminiscent of truffles. They can also be added as a powder to soups and other sauces or as an ingredient in the production of mushroom ketchup such as sponge essence.
According to a Portuguese study, 100 g of the dried sponge contains 69.45 g of protein, 13.44 g of carbohydrates (mostly mannitol, a sugar alcohol) and 4.88 g of fat, worth 378 calories. They also contain fatty acids, mainly of the polyunsaturated variety, such as phenols, flavonoids and 87 mg of vitamin C.

Fresh sponges, cut very finely, can be prepared as ciulama, also together with other forest mushrooms or added to a meat sauce, preferably pork, chicken or domestic rabbit.