November 25, 2008

Wild Mushroom Eaten: Retiboletus ornatipes

Last night, I added another wild mushroom to the ever-growing list of those I've eaten. This latest one was Retiboletus ornatipes, which I collected at Wachusett Mountain in August under beech and birch and had preserved by dehydration.

LL prepared the mushrooms in marsala wine and used them as sauce for pollack. The consistency was good; they held up well to cooking. The flavor wasn't bad. It isn't particularly strong, like a milder version of porcini, with a distinctively bolete flavor. There was a slightly bitter aftertaste at first but which diminished after I'd eaten more of the mushrooms.

I would rank R. ornatipes as a fair edible mushroom. It's better than some I've had, and a notch or two above Agaricus bisporus "supermarket" mushrooms, but nowhere near the top of my list. Nonetheless, it's one I would recommend trying to someone who wasn't quite as spoiled experienced as I am.

A small aside; many people still refer to this mushroom as Boletus ornatipes. The person who confirmed my identification, however, was one of the authors on a 2002 paper that reclassified it into the new genus Retiboletus. I often mention that one should never consume wild mushrooms without certainty of their identity, and even though there's no such thing as a lethal bolete, that rule still applies! Having someone with the depth of knowledge of my colleague provides a great measure of confidence in the matter. I've been a little reticent about consuming boletes since I misidentified one years ago, the only instance in which I've ever poisoned myself. As not everyone has access to an expert, though, there are luckily some resources available in books and online to help with identification. Michael Kuo provides one such resource at; here's his identification page for R. ornatipes (he still uses the old nomenclature, but it's the same mushroom). If you're using a book or web page to identify a mushroom, go through all of the characters used to make sure that you're not making the mistake I did that led to 24 truly miserable hours suffering mushroom toxicity!

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