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.
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.