The boletes mushrooms are among the most common, widespread groups of wild mushrooms, including some of the best-tasting. They nearly all grow on the ground, near trees. That’s because these fungi form relationships with trees: they provide minerals and water (and sometimes even provide growth hormones) for the trees in exchange for food (the fungus actually interconnects with the tree’s microscopic root hairs).
The mushrooms are most common in the summer, when the trees are active. All boletes disseminate their spores through pores, tiny holes on the undersides of their caps. Spores travel down closely-packed, vertical tubes to reach the pores.Most boletes are umbrella-shaped, with a cap and stalk, not shelf-like, although there are exceptions with short, off-center stalks.
About ten days after the first heavy rains fall in the west, in September or October, young forms begin mounding up the pine needles under the trees. In the east, this occurs during the summer months. They are frequently found in large numbers. Specimens of differing ages are found at the same time. In some locations the season can last for four or five weeks. Boletus edulis is indeed grand and hardy to behold, with its fat, bulbous stem decorated at the top with a network of lacy white veins and its nourishing brown cap held high above the forest floor.
These mushrooms can be slippery. To reduce this quality, quickly fry slices in oil or butter. The simplest method of preparation is to sauté them in olive oil and butter, then add a rich brown sauce and serve as a side dish with steak, broiled chicken, or fish. Or layer fried mushrooms over rice, or baked, or mashed potatoes. Another way to quickly prepare boletes is to dip thick slices in beaten eggs,then dust in seasoned bread crumbs for deep-frying. You can also boil them.
The minimum use of water is important. Try not to allow water to enter the pore surface, for it tends to absorb a great deal of moisture. Remove any dark parts of the mushroom. Brush off the caps of Boletus and Leccinum. Peel off slimy tops of Suillus. If old, gently separate the spongy material from below the cap, using your finger or a knife, and peel off carefully. Check the underside of the cap for worm holes. If there are many, discard the cap. If only a few exist, use the parts not affected.
Some boletus are among the best-tasting, most mushrooms in the world. Boletus change rapidly. They should be used or preserved as soon as you bring them home. The most common method of preserving boletes is to dry them. Cut them into lengthwise slices no less than 1/2 inch thick from cap to base including the stems . Boletes may be frozen and stored after being sliced into 1/4-inch slices and placed in a freezer bag. They will keep well for 6 months. Pickled boletes may serve as a conversation piece for your cocktail party.
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