So, last week among the mushrooms springing up beneath the thickets on this lonely point where we were staying, I found what looked like the Cep, also known as the King Bolete. These large, brown mushrooms are found and eaten everywhere in Europe. As an American I've felt lame and ignorant when it comes to harvesting and eating what is so OB-vious to other people everywhere. And FREE! There are some species I know beyond any shadow of doubt. Like Morels which, if you know me you are sick of hearing about. The Common Puffball is pretty safe as long as you don't confuse it with a very young mushroom of another sort in its early stages. Once, I even found the Giant Puffball. They are so enormous,I swear when I saw it in the woods from a distance, I wondered who on earth kicked a soccer ball to here!? It deteriorated before I could eat it all.
Anyway, I was relying on some of my guides to help me figure out what is edible and what is not. Two of my favorite guides:
Edible Mushrooms by Clyde M. Christensen He is a no nonsense kind of guy who believes the best way to harvest edibles is not by knowing all the poisonous ones - there are too many - but to know the edible ones so well you will never make a mistake.
Mushrooming Without Fear: The Beginner's Guide to Collecting Safe and Delicious Mushrooms by Alexander Schwab is a fantastic guide. He show-cased some of the most common edible mushrooms and each species had many photos and characteristics to look for so you would never, ever mistake them for anything deadly. I trusted him. Even when I read: "the white network on the stem of the King is very clear and makes identification almost foolproof." It is that "almost" that is a little unnerving.
After fingering each page of his book, I couldn't stop myself gathering a whole lot of the best examples, Ceps, Birch bolete, Larch Boletus, Puffballs. Then, I brought them inside and prepared them for supper.
|Ready to clean|
I peeled the caps - they all had a membrane that was easy to pull off - cleaned them, dried and sliced them. Sautéed them in a little butter, added chopped garlic, chicken broth and white wine and commenced reducing the liquid. The aroma filled the cabin and I couldn't wait. As they simmered away, I thought, "I'll just take my iPhone and google poisonous boletus because, just in case. As you probably know, anyone who is a situational hypochondriac should stay away from Google. So I found a ton of sites that mentioned that some Boletus are difficult to identify and some species might make you sick especially if you are elderly or a little unhealthy or just don't care to risk 48 hours of your life blowing out your intestines.
Denis was reading on the porch when I rose from my chair and confessed that after a little more research I didn't think I should take the chance. His relief shocked me. I hardly believed him when he said he had been praying I WOULD NOT even taste them. He insisted he was sincere. If he had tried to stop me, I suppose I would, of course, have eaten the whole mess. This is not a virtue.
I stepped into the bathroom for a minute and when I came out the pan was empty. Anita had already dumped them in the trash.
I need a living mentor. Where is she?!