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How to recognize 5 edible mushrooms

#1 The Orange-Brown Lactarius

Large quantities of white milk flow from this mushroom when it is broken open. The French call it "Little cow." This milk is a peculiarity it shares with other Lactarius mushrooms we shall meet later on. Be­ginners will find it a godsend because none of the mushrooms with milk are poisonous, although some of them are too bitter to be eaten. How can the good-tasting ones be recognized? It is the simplest thing in the world: put a tiny piece on the tip of your tongue and you will soon find out! If all goes well you can go ahead and pick without fear.

Cap                    Red and downy, darker toward the center. Convex becoming funnel-shaped. Average 111 to 4 inches across. The flesh turns brown when cut.

Gills                  Adnate, unequal, crowded. cream with brown patches.

Spores              White.

Stem                  Cylindrical, cream near the gills red lower down, firm. Neither volva nor ring.

Habitat            Woods.

Season              Summer.

Special             Gives a sweet-smelling, white milk when broken.

Features

Recipes            May be eaten raw. Can be included in salads or

served with fresh cream flavored with a teaspoon of lemon juice. Lightly browned in oil with chopped shal­lots it goes well with roast pork. Pickled in vinegar you can eat it in the same way as gherkins.

A country recipe for the Delicious Milky Cap is also good for this one. Grill them with the caps bottom side up over hot charcoal, or better still over the glowing embers of vine prunings * Sprinkle a few drops of olive oil, salt. and pepper on the gills, and do not forget a speck of garlic.

Mushrooms were probably known to man from the very beginning of time. There is documentary evidence, however, only as far back as the fifth century 13 c. The celebrated Greek physician Hippocrates tells us that in his time mushrooms were used as medicine. The Ro­man poets Martial and Juvenal were fond of eating and they very much appreciated the taste of mushrooms. Later on, in the first cen­tury A.D., a Greek doctor wrote an important book on the use of mushrooms in medicine. He pointed out that even the best of them may prove to be difficult to digest if they are not eaten in moderation. For good measure he gives a decidedly original recipe for greedy people who have eaten too much of this delicious food, and here it is: make a mixture of honey and dried poultry droppings ground to a pow­der, then moisten the mix with a few drops of vinegar We sup­pose that anyone swallowing this mixture would quickly be relieved of his pains . and of his mushrooms too!

#2 The Meadow Mushroom

These are the ancestors of the cultivated mushroom and they have more taste than their more civilized offspring. The species comes in several varieties that differ in their firmness and in the color of the cap, which can be either lighter or darker and its surface either smooth or scaly_

Cap

White, cream. sometimes with brown patches. darker toward the center. silky. Spherical at first, then domed and finally flat. No bigger than a pea when it comes out of the ground, it can grow to 3 or 4 inches in diam-eter. The flesh turns pink when cut.

Gills

Salmon pink, almost white. turning to grayish-mauve and to purplish-brown with age- Crowded. free, frag-ile.

Spores

Dark purplish-brown

Stem

White. cylindrical, solid The ring is cottony and rubs off easily, pieces of it adhere to the stem and to the edge of the cap when the mushroom is not fully open. No volva.

Habitat

Pastures grazed by animals. any place that has been manured

Season

Summer. fall.

Special Features

Unfortunately, it is in gathering Meadow Mushrooms that careless people find the most dangerous of all fungi, and it is important to recognize Amanita OM-lodes in order to avoid it (see page 86). However, you do not need to be very observant to see the dif-ference between these two species. which are not really alike

#3 The Common Laccaria

The bright purple or salmon pink of these little mushrooms adds a cheerful note to the undergrowth. Since they usually come up in large quantity, their numbers make up for their small size.

Cap

Purple, or salmon pink, rounded and slightly flattened like a small, round button. The margin curves in at first then opens out in waves. becoming flat. A small hollow in the center.

Gills 

Same color as the cap. Broad, sparse, unequal, ad-nate. Spores White.

Stem 

Same color as the cap. Long, thin, fibrous then hol-low. Neither volva nor ring. 

Habitat Woods.

Season Summer, fall.

Special Features

Although it is much more slender, it could be mistak-Features en, on account of its color, for a Wood Blewit or a Violet Corlinarius (not described), both of which are edible.

Recipes Throw out the fibrous stem. The caps taste good cooked in butter and added to an omelet or put in a stew.

In France, mushroom hunting is a national pastime. In recent years hordes of mushroom gatherers have invaded the countryside during the season and there has been trouble between the local in-habitants and motorists coming from the towns especially for the picking. The mayors of some villages have established regulations to control mushroom picking In the countryside in some areas on a Sunday it is estimated that as many as ten thousand people strip everything they can find in the woods. The result is a massive destruction of species that would continue to thrive for the benefit of all if picking could be controlled.

#4 The Man on Horseback

This mushroom likes being near pine trees so that is the place to look, although it sometimes hides in long grass.

Cap

Pale yellow, convex then flattened, covered with small brown scales close together at the center. The flesh has no smell. 11/2 to 4 inches across.

Gills Yellow. crowded. emarginate, unequal. 

Spores White. 

Stem Yellow, stocky, firm. Neither volva nor ring. 

Habitat Pinewoods, sandy soil. 

Season Late summer, fall.

Special Features The Sulphur Tricholoma (Tricholoma sulfureum), Features which is inedible, is similar in appearance.

Recipes Easily cooked with butter, oil. or bacon fat, with chopped shallots and parsley. Blends well with meat. If you like spicy dishes, try this one: Cut the mush-rooms in slices and brown in a tablespoon of olive oil. Next pour in a glass of good. dry white wine and add lemon juice, a lump of sugar, a few coriander seeds. and a hint of Cayenne pepper. Served cold, this makes a good hors d'oeuvre.

#5 The Red-Cracked Boletus

Not as large as the King Boletus and less sought after, this mush-room is nevertheless welcome in a poor season when it is difficult to find much else.

Cap

Brown, downy or cracked. When cracked, the yellow flesh tinged with red shows through the darker patches. Up to 31/2 inches across.

Pores 

Wide at the ends compared to the imperceptible tips of a young King Boletus

Stem 

Rather weak, yellow stained pink or red at the base. 

Flesh Yellowish turning blue when cut, red beneath the cap. 

Habitat Woods. 

Season Summer, fall.

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