On Sunday I did my final butterfly survey for the year, competing at times along transects with blokes in camouflage gear carrying shotguns and accompanied by lolloping retrievers. Yes, hunting season has begun, so I decided wearing a hi-viz vest was prudent.
Halfway along transect 8, a ride in the Parc de Boussay, I came across some Bolete mushrooms (also known as ceps, cèpes or porcini) growing in the grass near aspen, birch and pine trees. I could see they were not the highly prized Boletus edulis, but I had a strong hunch they were an edible species, so I picked 7 or 8 and took them home.
Fortunately my specimens seemed to be very typical examples of the species, which is quite common and relatively easy to identify, at least sensu lato (all the good fungi sites discuss closely related and similar species). The key features are a chestnut cap, beige pores (boletes have a spongy underside, not gills like regular supermarket mushrooms) which are pale in young mushrooms and darken with age, an overhanging cuticle, brown scabers on the stipe (stalk) which go black with age and cream flesh which stains blue-black when cut. They are considered good eating.
Just to make sure I put them in the fridge overnight and took them to the pharmacy on Monday. One of the pharmacists was clearly used to being asked to identify mushrooms and her reference book was just under the counter. She checked all the diagnostic features, as did our doctor's practice nurse, who happened along during this process. We all agreed that it was B. aurantiacus.
Everyone was very relaxed about the idea that I was planning to eat them. Just to make extra double sure though I sliced them and put them in the oven on a low heat with the fan to dry them. Many mushrooms are safer to eat if they have been dried and/or cooked than they are to eat raw. It also meant that I didn't have to commit to eating all of them immediately or wasting them.
After 2½ hours drying in the oven, the kitchen smelled very satifactorily mushroomy and the ceps were leathery. I've put them in a jar in the pantry until I decide on how I want to cook and serve them. I'll probably start with some in a simple milky soup as a good way of testing them.