If you’ve spent any time foraging for wild mushrooms, you know how important it is to distinguish between the edible and the poisonous ones. Eating a poisonous mushroom can cause major digestive symptoms and even death. So, what if you’re foraging for boletes? You know there are many different species of them, so how can you tell if a bolete mushroom is edible? Keep reading to find out!
What You'll Learn Today
Are All Bolete Mushrooms Edible?
There are many species of bolete mushrooms in the world. Rather than being a single genus, boletes are a group of mushrooms that comprise several families, including Boletus, Leccinum, Suillus, and more.
All told, there are more than 300 individual species of bolete mushrooms found throughout the world.
Many of these species are edible, but not all of them. There are a few boletes that will give you a bad stomach ache as well as cause vomiting, diarrhea, and other unpleasant symptoms.
One species, the Rubinoboletus, may even cause death from muscarine poisoning.
As with any type of mushroom, correct identification is critical. If you are not absolutely certain whether a mushroom is edible, have it checked by an experienced forager or someone trained in mycology.
How Can You Tell if a Bolete Mushroom is Edible?
Considering there are so many different species of bolete mushrooms, you may be wondering how to tell them all apart. Specifically, how can you know which ones are edible?
Every type of bolete mushroom looks different from the rest. Some of these differences are quite obvious, while others are more difficult to spot.
That said, there are several characteristics that are shared by most of the edible mushrooms in this group.
When foraging for edible bolete mushrooms, keep an eye out for the following:
- Pores, not gills: Most bolete mushrooms have pores rather than gills on the underside of the cap, but a few have gills. These should be avoided–always make sure the bolete in question is porous on the underside, like a dry, fleshy sponge.
- Olive, brown, white, yellow, or violet flesh: Most of the edible boletes will be some combination of these colors. The king bolete, for example, will be orange-brown on top (like a buttered hamburger bun) with creamy white or yellow pores; the admirable bolete, another choice edible, will be dark violet in color with yellow pores.
Generally speaking, the colors of the edible boletes will be more muted than the colors of the toxic ones. Look for white, cream, or yellow flesh with white, brown, cream, or olive-colored caps and stems.
- Staining pores: Several of the edible bolete species have pores that will stain to a greenish or bluish color when cut or bruised. Make sure that it is only the pores that stain, not the meaty flesh of the stem or upper part of the cap, as this may indicate a poisonous mushroom.
- Plump, firm texture: Once these mushrooms emerge in the summer or fall, they only remain fresh and edible for a few days. After this, they may become soggy, soft, or insect-riddled.
Look for mushrooms that have a firm texture and plump appearance. If you can easily create an impression in the cap just by touching it, or if the mushroom falls apart in your hand, it is past its prime and should not be eaten.
- Overall intact appearance: Inspect the mushroom well. It should not have any dark, slimy spots or severe bug damage.
If you find a mushroom that looks like it has been half-eaten by bugs or is beginning to rot, it’s best to leave it. Only collect mushrooms that appear fresh, relatively intact, and unspoiled.
How Can You Tell if a Bolete Mushroom is Poisonous?
As mentioned above, most species within the bolete group are edible. There are only a few that you need to watch out for, including the Satan bolete, the bitter bolete, and the Rubinoboletus.
The good news is, these poisonous boletes often share several characteristics to help you identify them and set them apart from the edible ones. These characteristics include:
- Red or pink color: If any part of the mushroom is bright red, orange-red, or pink in color, it should be discarded. Edible species will not have these colors present on them.
Even if there are only small red portions or markings on the mushrooms, do not eat them. Again, red or pink coloring is one of the best indications that you are dealing with poisonous bolete mushrooms.
- Staining flesh: As noted above, some edible bolete mushrooms have pores that will stain green or blue when damaged. However, if the flesh stains blue, you most likely have a poisonous bolete on your hands.
Before eating any bolete, it’s a good idea to slice it open down the stem and middle of the cap. Wait a couple of minutes to see if any blue staining appears along the cut side.
The discoloration should appear fairly quickly–sometimes almost immediately after cutting. If it does, the mushroom is poisonous and should be discarded.
- Slimy caps: Several types of bolete mushrooms have slimy, gelatinous caps. Though these mushrooms are technically edible, this slime should be washed off before you eat the mushrooms, as it can cause digestive upset.
- Bad smell: The satan bolete, in particular, has a very strong and repulsive smell. Edible boletes will have a milder, more earthy aroma; if you harvest a bolete that smells noticeably bad, it’s better to be safe than sorry–discard the mushroom.
Bitter Bolete vs. King Bolete
Though both of these mushrooms are technically edible, the bitter bolete tastes horrible and is easy to confuse with the delicious king bolete. For this reason, we’re going to spend a couple of minutes discussing these two mushrooms.
Both are large mushrooms with umbrella-shaped porous caps and thick stems. Both are brownish to brownish-red in color.
The main physical difference between the two is that the stems of bitter boletes are usually the same color as the caps, while the stems of king boletes are usually cream to light tan in color–much lighter than their shiny, red-brown caps.
Though you can eat bitter boletes, they have an extremely bad taste, as the name suggests. If you cook one bitter bolete with several king boletes, the bitter taste will spoil the entire batch and linger in your mouth for hours afterward.
King boletes, on the other hand, have a deliciously mild, nutty, earthy flavor. They are one of the most desirable of all the bolete mushrooms so, if you find some, you don’t want to ruin the experience by accidentally mixing in some bitter boletes.
Check out this video to learn more about the bitter bolete:
Most mushrooms in the bolete group are edible (and animals love them, too), but there are a few that you need to look out for.
If you find mushrooms that have any red or pink on them, stain blue when you cut them, or have a particularly bad smell, you should not eat them as they may be poisonous.