Since we’re coming into mushroom foraging season again, it’s time to share what I’ve learned about how to identify an edible bolete mushroom in the wild.
Be sure to check out my list of the best mushroom foraging books here!
Boletes, also known as porcini mushrooms, are a broad species of mushrooms that contain many edible species and no deadly ones.
That’s not to say they’re all good to eat, though. Many will make you WISH you were dead, according to the many stories of upset stomachs and days of pain I’ve read in books and online.
Fortunately, identifying an edible bolete isn’t hard. Though you may not get the species correct, all you need is a few filters in your foraging that will ensure you don’t consume the “wrong” kind of bolete… and God has helpfully designed this mushroom with a few simple characteristics that makes this identification easy.
Ready? Let’s do it!
What Does a Bolete Mushroom Look Like?
First of all, let’s take a look at what a bolete mushroom looks like.
At the top of the ID, you need to know bolete mushrooms are rather dense-fleshed and lack gills.
“Lack gills!” you say, “How can this be?”
Well, it’s not that crazy. I mean, even some fish – like whales – totally lack gills.
Kidding. I know that whales are marsupials, not fish.
Okay, where was I?
Boletes lack gills. Instead, they have pores on the underside of their cap from which their spores are sent careening off into the world. This spongy surface looks very different from your typical field mushroom, like say a Chlorophyllum molybdites. Look at the gills on the mushrooms in that link, then look at the pores on the bottom of a bolete:
Very different. Almost like a sponge.
Another thing about boletes is that they work in tandem with certain species of trees and only grow around their roots. In my area, I only find bolete mushrooms growing near oaks.
So – don’t look in a field for boletes. Look near trees!
Once you spot a patch and identify them as edible, remember where that patch is. The bolete fungi lives beneath the ground year-round and only erupts in fruit (mushrooms!) when conditions are right fro reproduction. Usually, that means when it’s rainy and somewhat cool… but not cold. Here I’ve seen some boletes here and there when the weather is in the 90s but it’s been raining for a week and cooling things off while soaking the ground. That said, the best harvests have been in the early fall for me.
Identifying an Edible Bolete
Now here’s the scary bit. It’s not really scary if you have some good mushroom foraging books and do a little bit of due diligence, but for a first-time mushroom hunter… it’s terrifying.
“Will I die???”
No, you won’t die. That said
DISCLAIMER: DON’T SUE ME IF YOU DIE OR GO BACK IN TIME AND VISIT A WACKY MAGICAL WORLD OF CANDY UNICORNS. THIS GUIDE IS ONLY FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES AND IS NOT EXPERT ADVICE ON EATING WILD MUSHROOMS OR THE TAXONOMY OF WHALES. ONLY EAT WILD MUSHROOMS WITH THE HELP OF AN APPROVED MYCOLOGIST AND A PERMISSION SLIP FROM YOUR DOCTOR AND/OR SPOUSE WHO MAY BE WIDOWED.
There, that should be sufficient.
Here are the two steps that will filter out the potentially stomach-twisting boletes from the edible boletes.
1. Make Sure Your Bolete Doesn’t Stain Blue When Bruised
I know, this seems mean, but once you’ve found a bolete, cut into it or crush a corner. If the flesh rapidly stains blue, you may have an inedible type. Discard it unless you are an expert.
2. Make Sure Your Bolete DOES NOT Have Bright Red Or Yellow Pores
Some of the toxic boletes have brilliant red or yellow pores on the bottom. If your mushroom looks like that, there’s a good chance it’s not an edible bolete.
And there you have it – that’s how to identify boletes that are safe to eat. If you’d like to see what this process looks like, check out my short video How To Identify An Edible Bolete Mushroom:
Unfortunately, by applying these rules, you will miss out on identifying edible boletes such as the two-color bolete, which, though edible, does stain blue. That’s probably the second mushroom in my video – the “questionable” specimen.
That said, this is a guide for beginner bolete hunters who want to start out knowing they’re not going to get hit with a bad mushroom experience.
Start by learning what bolete mushrooms look like, then follow these two basic rules of edible bolete identification, then work further on your ID skills so you can tentatively reach beyond the absolutely safe zone. That will put you on the path to mushroom foraging excellence! Remember – boletes won’t kill you… and finding an edible bolete will greatly bolster your mushroom foraging cred. Have fun and be safe.
Very entertaining….with Lots of
Essential info… Mdj
There is very little accurate information in this article. People who don’t know the first thing about what they are talking about trying to churn out articles for a buck. It’s sad, really.
Feel free to correct what you think is wrong. Comment quality: 2/5 stars
Is the information based on the US grounds only? I am wondering, if the same mushrooms we are picking, in Europe, could be poisonous, in the States? Since I was a little kid, we have been picking the ones with brown head and yellow/greenish spores. The most important rule was, they have to turn bluish when cut. If not, they could be false. People have been eating them for centuries. I wish, I could attach a picture of the ones, we just found today, in German woods. They are beautiful:))
I appreciate this video. Simple and good way to identify good mushrooms. Any tips on the forests you have seen mushrooms? I live in Chicago and went to Wisconsin few times
Thank you. Around here my best luck has been in mixed hardwood forests, and particularly around the base of oak trees. Old Man of the Woods, Lactarius Indigo, Chanterelles, Boletes. I also used to have a ring of puffballs that would come up every year in the middle of my lawn in Tennessee, though generally the field varieties of mushrooms are harder to pin down as safe to eat than the woodland varieties.
What exactly makes the two color bolete questionable?
The fact that it bruises blue. There are no poisonous boletes that do that (except for bright red or yellow pored ones which may or may not… and they’re easily seen as poisonous because of their color), so “no blue = safe” is a good way to remember edible ones.
Worth noting that No blue = safe is not the same as no blue = good. Bitter boletes don’t blue and yet would taste terrible.
As ADAM noted above, I would add a third rule to taste the cap flesh after the first two rules evaluate to success conditions. You don’t want to pick five porcinis to find out after they’ve been chopped up and cooked that one was a bitter bolete(Tylopilus felleus). As far as I know, at the time of writing, there has only been one death attributed to the Boletaceae family (or pored mushrooms in general) and that was due to an infarction in the mid-gut due to a preexisting condition and was caused by Boletus huronensis. That doesn’t mean other boletes can’t really mess you up, but it probably won’t be listed as your cause of death…
There are also species that are edible which break both rules: Gyroporus cyanescens
Nice video, good disclaimers, perhaps a little too simplistic. The older field guides agree with what you say here, but more recent information suggests there have been fatalities resulting from consumption of white fleshed boletes from the genus Leccinum. This is confusing because the mushrooms implicated were once classed as Boletus and many field guided still list them as edible. In fact many have been eaten for years ( I have eaten some of these myself, with no ill effects). Yet the reported poisonings were severe, and were investigated by experts, so caution is advised and rule of thumb identification such as you offer here may be dangerous. Further, blue staining may be more subtle, or absent, particularly with older specimens or examples which have suffered freezing or waterlogging.
Thank you, Vernon – I appreciate it. In our area we haven’t had any issues but more caution is not a bad idea. Thank you for stopping by.
Unfortunately there are some that don’t meet these crriteria which are sickeners, such as a few culprits in Leccinium that were previously reported as edible. While you won’t die, you might be sorry you ate that if you eat a bolete that you haven’t identified a little more closely. Reactions have also been reported specifically to the cap/skin portions in the genus Suillus. A good rule of thumb is once you’re sure you have an edible mushroom, eat a very small amount to start with to see if you might be sensitive to it.
Good advice – thank you for stopping by.
[…] How To Identify an Edible Bolete Mushroom […]
I have a bright yellow Bolete that’s turned tan on top. I take it that’s one of the varieties I’m not supposed to eat even though it didn’t bruise blue. They’re growing under an oak tree in Cashiers, NC.
Take some good pictures and see if you can hunt down a local expert. If the pores on the bottom aren’t bright yellow, it may be edible. Good find either way, though!
Plenty of boletes have yellow pores on the underside, including some choice edible varieties. Don’t know where this “no yellow pores” stuff comes from.
Get a mushroom identification guide and use it.
That Lee is actually right. You’re off base with yellow pores. Rule of thumb for boletes is to stay away from the ones with red pores, ORANGE pores (not yellow!), or that stain blue, unless you’re more advanced. You are literally only the second person I’ve ever seen advise to avoid yellow pores. It’s honestly not a rule of thumb with experts. Even blue-staining is mostly a myth, but I guess if you want to be totally safe. Personally, I’m learning to get over my fear of blue-stains.
i have some teo colored boletes. They are yellowish inside and they dont bruise inside when theyre cut. The skin will bruise slightly from being touched but only on the bottom of the cap. This is my first time hunting for mushrooms and i wasbt sure what i had but everything im reading says theyre good. Really good in fact!! So im gonna fry up a small portion to make sure, but im a hundred perce t at this point. Those red ones in your vid are the ones that look like the ones i got but yours are the inedible ones.
Awesome! Be safe. My first few tastes scared me.
Whales are not marsupials, not even close. They are cetaceans. If the mushroom information is equally as poorly researched, the author’s credibility is somewhat lacking. (see “Snicker” comment at start of article).
Not marsupials? Then why do they carry their babies in pouches, smart guy? Wow.
I’m really sorry to correct both of you (I don’t like seeming like a know it all) but you are BOTH wrong. Recent studies have shown that whales are actually a type of rodent, more closely related to rats than dolphins.
Dolts! Scabrous rogues! Such mis-information one finds on-the-line nowadays! ACTUALLY, the FBI have been hiding the fact that whales are the ghosts of singing aliens. ‘S why they sing. (And they’re blue ’cause they eat BLEWits). Du-uh!
Incidentally, I found a (probably) bolete today -deciduous trees, ex-vineyard- which was bright yellow all over (bar the penny-bun cap). I was in a hurry but scritched at it and waited. No colour change, which I thought was odd for a yellow-pore B. It was fairly old, though. Going back tomorrow for a closer look.
P.S. Was it B. Huronensis that got re-classified? I heard stories…
NOPE. Whales are actually bats whose wings have evolved for swimming and since they don’t have to fly anymore, they grew some.
Mammal was the word you were looking for. Whales don’t have pouches for their young but they do have mammary glands which gives them the ability to produce milk, which is one of the criteria to be a mammal.
Thanks for sharing your advice and experiences about boletes.
It was a joke. My taxonomy isn’t that bad. And thank you for stopping by.
Wow, some people are just plain gullible haha
So, I can eat a whale if it isn’t blue and it has yellow gills? Ok, good to know. Does that hold true for all aquatic marsupials or just those in the genus Boletus Whalus?
You got it.
I’ve been foraging mushrooms for 5 yrs now and I’m so happy that I learn new edible mushrooms every year. We seem to have a lot of Boletes around my area here in NH. I’m so glad that I found your website about identifying edible Boletes, because there are quite a few of them in my property right now and I’ll be so upset not to harvest them if they were edible. It would be nice too if we can send you some pictures for future mushroom identification. Thank you and appreciate it so much for the video, It’s truly helpful for me .
Thank you, Catherine. I’m not really a true expert, so I would be terrified to ID from pics. Be careful, get some good guide books and hook up with some local foragers if possible. Good luck – and good hunting!
Unfortunately, these rules of thumb don’t rule out the bitter bolete, Tylopilus felleus. Bitter boletes look almost identical to the choice king bolete, but they taste horribly bitter, even after cooking. One bitter bolete in a pan with other choice mushrooms will ruin the entire batch. The simplest way to make the distinction between bitter boletes and king boletes is to taste a small bit of the mushroom. The difference is obvious.
Thank you very much, Don – I appreciate it. I never encountered that species in Florida. Always something new to learn.
Here’s a good discussion of bitter boletes.
They’re not poisonous, so the rules of thumb work to that extent. But you definitely do not want to eat bitter boletes.
Hi, thanks for the video. I am just getting to know boletes. We have them on our land in MT. I am pretty sure we have the inedible types up there, but I found a large one under a pine in our CA backyard. My question: it is sticky and yellow on top and the pores stain brown. When I pressed the pores onto a paper, the paper stains blue; but NO other part of the mushroom bruises blue, nor do the pores appear blue except on paper – and then, only slightly. So, yellow-orange flesh remains yellow, but white pores quickly bruise brown, with a slight blue print on paper. Thoughts?
Here in KS all I ever see are boletes under pine trees. They aren’t out right now, but it seems the pores are yellow. Is this always the case that they aren’t edible?
we have 5 gallons of boletes we don”t know what kind
Holy moly – I hope you figured out if they’re edible. That’s a heck of a haul.
Unfortunately this is waaaay too simplistic. Mushrooms are not so. There are incredibly edible mushrooms that stain blue such as the Butter bolete. If mushrooms are not your passion and you’re not willing to do the scientific research just leave them alone. But if you are truly interested in this amazing creature, do your research. “Know everything by it’s name”.
[…] a great guide on how to identify […]
[…] As I’ve written before in my article on how to identify an edible bolete: […]
If anyone would like a comprehensive description of the Boletes, and how to ID them, check out:
Hello, I live in Northeast Florida and recently found what I assumed was a slippery jack. Had a brown, slimy cap, hollow stem. I sliced it, no bluing at all, white/cream pores. Okay, so, I fried it, ate a few pieces, and Auuggh! Very bitter. What the heck? What did I actually find? BTW< found it under a large pine. Hope to hear back, keep up the good work
Enjoyed reading your article and the comments. Question. Why are you calling boletes porcini? This is the name of very specific boletes and should not be applied to the whole family. Just a note: the blueing bolete (Gyroporus cyanescens) is delicious, one of my favorite edibles, despite the fact that it turns very very blue, especially when cooked.
See Tom Volk’s article and video on the blueing boletes;
You shouldn’t eat any mushroom that you cannot positively ID. That is the rule, break it if you must.
[…] research before you go mushroom picking! Certain boletes that are edible in Europe are actually poisonous here in the USA. There are also plenty of edible species here that don’t grow in Europe – that’s […]
Thanks for the write-up and your humour, but I think it needs a few more things. I’ve been told red or orange pore surfaces are bad, but yellow is ok. Also, the red/orange-capped Leccinums have been implicated in some severe illnesses, though many people eat them with no problems. Caution is advised. Also, many bitter Tylopilus meet the above conditions, but are terrible and possibly sickening, so the next step after looking and scratching is to nibble and check the flavor. Also, the Suillus genus features a slime layer on the tops that is reportedly a gastric irritant, but can be scraped off. An easy exception to the blue-staining rule are the Phylloporus (gilled boletes). They’re pretty easy to get to know and even though some stain blue, they’re all good edibles, if you can get them before the bugs, or if you don’t mind eating larvae, but I guess that goes for all the Boletes. btw, I’ve found it super hard to find non-blue-staining and non-bitter Boletes around Gainesville, so I think if I’m going to eat Boletes, I’ll need to figure out those blue-stainers.
Also, I just learned about an all gray bolete that grows here in Florida and is poisonous. It’s called Typolilus griseocarneus. So add all gray boletes to the avoid group.
Thank you, Michael!
Thanks for the reply and I’ll bear it in-mind. This seems a good/useful/interesting ‘blog/comments/whatever feature and I intend to stay-tuned!
I’ve had boletes in association with white pine in my yard for years. I never had the guts to eat any even though my book said that none of ’em would hurt you, though some were not worth eating.
They’ve come up like crazy in the rear yard with only one white pine sapling in a pot but shingle-oak, sassafras, persimmon and red cedar. I’m in east-central Mo. Of note—this is the first time I’ve put leaves from the front yard which has sweet-gum trees in my mulch area and that’s where these are fruiting most prolifically.
These stain dark when bruised. At first I suspected they were mildewing ’til I started washing a couple off and they started turning dark all over. I decided to chew a bite of one and spit it out to see if they were even worth delving into further. They had 0 “good taste”. I spit and rinsed a few times and won’t be “delving” any further. For those having known edible pore-type mushrooms I hope yours taste better than what I have because I don’t think I’d bother to eat these if I were starving lost in the woods.
They look nice though!
Commit: I found a 41/2 lb. 14 in. across cap king bolete at 8000ft. on Mt. San Gorgonial Cal.
This information is porous and misleading … your introductory sentence is filled with errors: boletes are a family of mushrooms not a species… porcini is one species/species group in the bolete family. There ARE a few deadly poisonous boletes… there are no simple rules such as the author suggests , and actually most of the delicious and edible boletes have yellow pores and many of them stain blue … so while you think you have a rule that may work out in a family of mushrooms that are mostly safe , really what you have is a inaccurate crutch which really excludes most of the edible species in this family… I could critique this article piece for piece as could any half-decent forager or mycologist… but really I don’t have the time or interest other than to warn your readers this is misinformation and suggest to you the author you are better to take this page down off of the internet rather then offer advice in a category where you are severely misinformed…or you could change the title to “semi-accurate, misleading, and potentially dangerous mushroom non-identification crutch” . And while this “rule” may have been working for you for some time, it’s not accurate and could result in poisoning and definately results in missing out on most edible bolete species while misguiding the public to think that there is an easy rule or that you are an authority on this subject … maybe leave this category to folks who have spent more time learning with mushrooms and mushroom people … and yes you are right to suggest that people, including you, find their local foragers and guides to lead them on mushroom hikes for proper training in the lineage of mushroom eaters. Regards…oh and in case you decide you do want to go foreward in offering mushroom advice , a much more solid way is to properly identify one edible species at a time with full pictures of stalk, pores, cap, butt, and growing area/ substrate . This will actually get your viewers started on their own path of self sufficiency… blessings
Yellow pored boletes aren’t to be feared, and there’s plenty that are good that don’t take a Phd to key out, like Hemileccinum subglabripes. Also, there’s plenty of potentially harmful boletes that have perfectly white pores, like orange or red-capped Leccinum–that refers to them in their fresh form only though, as they’re harmless dehydrated and have been one of the favored mushrooms of Eastern Europeans in my area for as long as I’ve been hunting mushrooms. Further, saying blue-staining boletes should be avoided removes a lot of easily identifiable boletes like Gyroporus cyanescens that are simple to separate from others like sensibilis. Next time, maybe write an article about something you’re actually familiar with.
Good post, thank you. PS: whales are mammals, not marsupials!
I have no idea where this “if it bruises blue don’t eat it’ came from. Bruising blue is the NUMBER ONE criteria for edible. If it bruises blue, I eat it! I have been eating Boletes in Central Florida for years.
Hey, I’ve commented before and I’m surprised to see this content is still published on the web. As a mushroom lover and well-versed forager, who many would call an expert, what you’ve presented here is horribly inaccurate, misleading, and dangerous information. I highly suggest you and anyone learn from experienced foragers.
An actual good rule is to develop personal relationship with each mushroom and only eat species you can actually identify as its exact species or species -group.
A good rule is to, at a minimum, identify a mushroom in three different sources: two different books and online , as well as from local experts who would be happy to help.
Cheers and please don’t try to teach what you don’t know:
Because edible boletes come in every color and many of the most delicious and common ones have yellow pores and stain blue.
I hope everyone can learn from your well informed comments section and not this very misleading article that you still haven’t updated after all these years.
Please get better info and do an update!
Feel free to write a better article – I don’t mind publishing it.
Some of my favorite mushrooms stain blue at least when I was much younger foraging the dunes grasses In northern Oregon but i know what I am doing. Thanks for the fun read god bless
i found my first king boletes yesterday in front of a police station. There were no oak trees though.
Thank you for this post. I found it very helpful. https://conservationconstructionofdallas.com/contacts/ I will highly recommend this blog to others. I can’t wait for more content. I’ll check back later for more!!!
Whales are not marsupials. Whales are mammals.
Wait – really???
Good thing you acknowledge not being an expert on whale taxonomy. They are mammals, not marsupials.
You must be retarded to not realize that was a joke.