The most well-known groups of wild mushrooms are boletes (Boletaceae). Edible representatives of this genus are the most delicious mushrooms that have a meaty texture, a great aroma, and delicate taste.
These fungi feature soft-fleshed caps, central stalk, and reproductive parts under the cap - pored tubes. The tube color ranges from white, yellow to red or green and may bruise to blue, green, or red. Stems are centered and can be smooth, dotted, striated or scabbed. Colors of boletes range from light brown, brown, black to pink, red or yellow.
In the Pacific Northwest, different species of Bolete mushrooms can be found during spring, summer, and fall seasons. If the weather conditions are favorable, these species grow up quickly and for a couple days become large and beautiful.
Most boletes are mycorrhizal fungi that mean that they build symbiotic relationships with the roots of ectomycorrhizal trees and shrubs.
- King Bolete establish relationships with conifer trees, primarily with pine, and spruce
- Admirable bolete build symbiosis with western hemlock, fir, and red cedar
- Aspen Bolete prefers aspen and birch.
There are roughly 300 species of boletes and just a few of them are poisonous or bitter. The good news: the result of a mistake is not life-threatening but rather can cause gastric upset and diarrhea. Some mushrooms are inedible because of their bitter or sour taste which remains even after cooking. There are methods allowing to identify edible and inedible boletes.
• Avoid boletes with red or orange pores and flesh that bruises blue or black
• If you aren’t certain, avoid boletes with yellow pores that bruise blue
• If you aren’t absolutely sure it is edible, avoid orange-capped boletes with yellow pores and bruise blue
• Break of a small piece of mushroom, taste it (do not swallow). If it is bitter or sour, do not take it.
Attention: This technique can be used for boletes only. Absolutely, do not use it for other species of mushrooms.
Cautions. Boletes like many other mycorrhizal fungi absorb toxic heavy metals such as lead and neodymium from the soil. Avoid the polluted areas near metal mines, industrial buildings, or busy highways.
Bolete is the safest wild edible mushrooms for the novices. These mushrooms are easy to identify by their appearance and spongy-like surface underside of the cap.
King Bolete aka Penny Bun, Cep, or Porcini (Excellent Edible)
King Bolete (Boletus edulis) is a highly prized on world markets and, also, the most delicious wild mushrooms. In Italian, it calls Porcini that means “little pig”. This is one of the best edible mushrooms that have a great aroma, texture, and taste. They are excellent for drying, sautéing, or frying. King Bolete is the safest wild edible mushrooms for the novices.
Cap: Large, bun-shaped becoming nearly flat when mature. Smooth surface, pale to red- or dark-brown, 3-10 inches (8-25 cm) wide.
Cap's Underside: Sponge-like, rounded pores are white when young and yellow-olive when mature, tubes are sunken around the stalk.
Spore Print: Elliptical, olive-brown.
Steam: Whitish to brownish. Thick and club-shaped, 4-10 inches (10-25 cm) long.
Flesh: Firm and solid, white.
Fruiting: Singly or in groups.
Habitat: Mycorrhizal with conifer trees: pine, western hemlock, Sitka spruce. Most likely found in the new-growth forest.
Season: Early summer to late fall.
Zeller's Bolete (Excellent Edible)
Zeller's Bolete (Xerocomellus zelleri) is a beautiful medium-sized western bolete with a colorful combination of almost black caps, yellow pores, and red-streaked stalk. The mushrooms are native to the Pacific Northwest and found in the coastal and Cascade Mountains forests under hardwoods and conifers.
Zeller's Bolete is an excellent edible mushroom with slight odor and delicious taste. Similar to Boletes Edulis, these fungi are great for drying, sautéing, frying, pickling, and freezing.
Cap: Rounded, becoming flat when mature. Often wrinkled but not sticky surface, dark reddish brown to black with reddish margin, 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) wide.
Cap's Underside: Sponge-like, rounded pores, olive-yellow to dark yellow, turning to blue when bruised.
Spore Print: Elliptical, olive-brown.
Steam: Reddish to yellow streaked with red, dry, white or yellowish at the base, 2-5 inches (4-12 cm) in height.
Flesh: Yellow, red when mature, sometimes staining blue when bruised.
Fruiting: Singly or in small groups.
Habitat: At edges of redwood and conifer forests of the Pacific Northwest.
Aspen Bolete (Edible)
Aspen Bolete (Leccinum Insigne) is a great wild edible mushroom that distinguished by having a red or orange cap and brown scales on its stalk. This fungus can be found on the ground near aspen trees, often fruiting in groups. There are other edible species of Leccinum that resemble Aspen Bolete including Red Aspen Bolete, Manzanita Bolete, and Birch Bolete.
Aspen Bolete mushrooms have an excellent texture, aroma, and taste. When cooked, it becomes darker. Due to there have been reported some negative effects including gastrointestinal upset, the species need to be cooked well. They are good for drying, pickling, freezing, frying, and sautéing.
Cap: Bun-shaped becoming nearly flat when mature. Dry surface, cap skin is overhanging, bright red to orange-brown when mature, 1.5-6 inches (4-15 cm) wide.
Cap's Underside: Sponge-like, rounded pores are whitish to grayish or olive-brown.
Spore Print: Elliptical, yellow-brown.
Steam: Tall, almost cylindrical, enlarged at based, 3-5 inches (8-15 cm) long.
Flesh: Firm and white, staining gray to black when cut.
Fruiting: Singly or a few together.
Habitat: Mycorrhizal with aspen trees.
Season: June to August.
Bitter Bolete (Caloboletus calopus or Caloboletus rubripes), also known as the Red-stemmed Bitter Bolete or Scarlet-stemmed bolete is not poisonous but they have a keenly bitter taste that doesn't go away with cooking. Bitter Bolete is distinguished by partly or entirely red stalk. The cap surface is dry, smooth or with cracks. The cap color varies from tan to buff or olive-brown. The underside of the cap has a yellow spongy layer staining blue when bruised. The solid flesh is pale and staining blue when cut or bruised.
On the Pacific Northwest, there are other bitter boletes, changing blue when damaged, including Conifer Boletes (Caloboletus conifericola) with yellow to olive-yellow stalk that enlarged and brown at the base. The cap is yellow-brown to dark-brown, cracking when mature.
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Disclaimer: This is not an official guide to wild mushroom foraging. Please do your own research, be sure to practice with a mushroom's expert before you pick up and consume any wild mushrooms.