Boletus Edulis: King of Kingdom Fungi


Returning to the introductions of the sensation of wild mushroom foraging from the article Fungophobe or Fungophile, meet the king of the fungi kingdom, the Bolete. 

The King Bolete, Boletus edulis, is robust in both size and taste. Rotund like a little piggy, the Italians call them Porcinis.  Thick and meaty, the Porcini lives up to its name.  Many varieties of this species are edible, including: King, Queen, White King, Butter, Admirable, Zeller’s, Birch, Orange Birch, and Aspen.  I can only attest to the edibility and deliciousness of the King and Queen, as they are the common types that are grown nearby.

Boletes are an unmistakable type of mushroom. Fat stumpy bodies, with giant caps and a spongy under layer are immediate identifiers. The cap of the King Bolete is brown to yellow-brown, red-brown or dark red; while the cap of the Queen Bolete, (Boletus aereus) is darker brown. When fresh, the surface of the cap is firm; if old, it is fluffy and spongy. For both the King and Queen varieties, the stalk is at least 1-inch thick at top, white to brown and the surface is finely netted. The flesh is white, and does not stain blue or brown when cut. The taste is mild or nutty, never bitter.

Where and When to Find

Boletes are typically found on the ground in woods, and on the edges of the wood. Most often, they are clumped in groups. I tend to find them near conifers, but they are also located near oak and birch. Sparse patches of Boletes will be found in the Spring, but the mass crop grows in late summer/early fall when the weather starts to turn a little cooler and moisture precipitates the air.

Three types of toxic Boletes exist: Slender Red-pored, Red-pored, and Satan’s. I have never seen any of the three, but they are distinguishable by their red sponge layers and bluish stain bruising on the flesh.

Cooking with Boletes

If you have found and identified a true bolete, a happy dance is in order. Make sure the cap is firm. If it is spongy, look close for tiny white to yellow wiggly lines. Maggots! Don’t despair. I don’t prefer maggots in my mushrooms, but you know the old cliche on desperate times. You can soak the mushrooms in salt water to help remove the creepy crawlers, but that often lends to soggy shrooms. Another option is to simply pick them out. If there are too many to count, chuck it and try again. The best Porcini is one that is found as a shrump—it’s bald head puffing beneath the surface of the forest floor. Most often the shrumps are maggot free, firm, and delectable.

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