Summer Rains Bring Boletes! Guest Post by Noah Siegel
After a dry July throughout much of the northeast, we have started to get some decent rain from summer thunderstorms. With this rain, mushrooms have started springing up in our forests.
One group in particular, the Boletes, are fruiting really well right now. This past weekend in Connecticut I saw 54 species of Boletes, which is about half of the known species from the state. This is an amazing show of diversity in one day.
Unlike the white button mushrooms or Portobello you buy in the store, which has gills on the underside of the cap, Boletes have a sponge-like layer of tightly packed tubes that have small round openings on the end called pores.
A lot of Boletes are distinctive and are easy to identify. Quite a few are edible, some are inedible; usually because they are bitter tasting, and a few are known to be poisonous.
Well known edible boletes include: Porcini, also known as the King Bolete, Boletus edulis; which is common in the fall in New England, the Birch Bolete or Common Scaber Stalk (Leccinum scabrum) and the Slippery Jacks (Suillus sp).
Most of the ones I found this past weekend, although large and plentiful, weren’t edible. They were three similar looking Tylopilus species, all of which are bitter tasting.
The large and colorful Violet-gray Bolete, (Tylopilus plumbeoviolaceus) is out in force right now. It has a pretty violet cap and deep purple stalk when young, as it ages the stalk retains the purple color but the cap fades purplish-gray to gray-brown.
The Red-brown Bolete (Tylopilus rubrobrunneus) has a deep purple-brown to red-brown cap when young, also fading gray-brown in age, pinkish pores and an off-white stalk that develops dingy olive stains, especially when handled. With caps up to 15 inches across, this is our largest bolete in the east.
Another beautiful bitter Tylopilus in the oak-beech woods is the Violet-tinted Bolete, (Tylopilus violatinctus), which has a pretty pinkish-violet cap when young but in age can be tough to tell apart from the two species mentioned above.
Unfortunately the bitter taste of these mushroom makes them inedible to most. However I know a couple of people who lack the ability to taste bitterness, who eat and enjoy these large fleshy Tylopilus and have little competition collecting them for the table.
One of the most striking boletes in the world, Frost’s Bolete, Boletus frostii made an appearance as well. The key features are it’s beautiful tacky candy-apple red cap, red pores and coarsely reticulated, almost shaggy red stalk. I have a hard time passing up a photo opportunity whenever I see this mushroom, even though I have photographed at least 20 different collections of it, I still stop to take another picture. It is edible but some people are put off by it’s sour, almost lemony taste. Care should also be taken when collecting this for the table because some of the red pored, blue staining boletes are poisonous.
The little Chestnut Bolete (Gyroporus castaneus) is having a very good year as well. With a finely velvety orange to orange-brown cap, white to creamy-yellow pores and an orange stalk that is brittle and hollow sets this apart from other little brown boletes. Chestnut Boletes are a great edible; they are sweet and crunchy when cooked and make a tasty little morsel.
Another neat Gyroporus I saw this past week was the Bluing Bolete, (G. cyanescens). With a white to straw colored cap, white to creamy pores and a whitish stalk this drab bolete doesn’t stand out. But when you touch or break it, all parts of it instantly stain a brilliant deep blue color. It also has a brittle and often hollow stalk; a unique feature that sets Gyroporus apart from other boletes.
The Two-colored Bolete (Boletus bicolor) is all over lawns and roadsides under oak trees right now in MA. It has a red suede cap, yellow pores that stain blue slowly and a red stalk. Although it is edible it has LOTS of look-alikes, some of which are poisonous. Because of this it’s not a recommended edible.