Wild Mushrooms

Mixed mushrooms from Lithuania

MUSHROOMS ARE THE GIFT of the forest. They are the summer fruit and the winter meet. On the luckiest of days they spread out between the trees like meadow flowers—yellow, red, russet, white, blue, gray. Whether you are out on one of these days, or on a day in which the mushrooms are hiding, every hunt has the feel of a treasure hunt.

The array of mushrooms you see, above, were ones I collected in an afternoon in Lithuania. Judging by the black trumpets, the Craterellus cornucopioides, I think this must have been in the late summer, but I don’t actually recall. In the upper left are boletes. If you aren’t a mushroom collector, then these are the mushrooms that are often imported from Italy as dried mushrooms. They are in the Boletus edulis group meaning that there are a few mushrooms that are so closely related that people picking them for dinner don’t really care which is which. Moving along the top, the mushrooms with the scaly stalk are are in the Boletaceae family. These are in the genus Leccinum. They often grow when the B. edulis is growing. They tend to be denser and not always as flavorful but should always be picked. Like the B. edulis group they also dry well for use in soups and stocks and stews during the winter. The reddish mushroom with white dots is Amanita muscaria. (This mushroom is widely published as being poisonous, but it isn’t if parboiled. I authored a paper on its edibility along with the mycologist David Arora which you can find at the link, just above.)  In the bottom right is a parasol mushroom (Macrolepiota procera). It is an unbelievably delicious mushrooms. I fry the cap in butter. Along the bottom a few small Leccinum and then Lactarius species in the bottom left corner. I have been collecting wild mushrooms for years but to be honest I am terrible with names and I often only know the more general rather than the more specific name for what I collect. I am pretty sure these are Lactarius deliciosus and if they aren’t precisely, then close enough. These were favorite mushrooms in ancient Rome and are still very popular around the Mediterranean. In the middle are the black trumpets, a terrific mushroom, and chanterelles.