Shrimp Russulas in abundance on the San Francisco Peaks

A trip up the Snow Bowl road on the San Francisco Peaks last Sunday did not yield any top-ranked edibles like chanterelles or porcini. There were a lot of mediocre Suillus, but the worms had got most of them first.

The trip was saved by the discovery of a good number of shrimp russulas, Russula xerampelina. These cooked up very nicely. They are an underrated table mushroom in my opinion, and also were almost entirely free of bugs and worms.

IMG_1781I didn’t take any pictures of them in situ, as it was drenching rain when they were picked, but they are easy to find. Look for the brick red cap, brittle stipe with a conspicuous pink blush, and lack of any acridity (spicy/peppery taste) or bitterness on taste testing.  A seafood odor is characteristic of older or dried specimens, but was pretty inapparent on this soaking wet day.


As always, start with small amounts of edible mushrooms that are new to you. No Russulas are known to be deadly poisonous, but some (specifically those with an acrid taste) will make you lose your lunch if you eat them.

About Christopher May

Chris is a radiologist in private practice in Scottsdale. He is married to Barbara May, with two grown children, Megan and Nick.
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15 Responses to Shrimp Russulas in abundance on the San Francisco Peaks

  1. Bill Warner says:

    Lucky you! Last Friday near Flagstaff I found only a singleton with a pleasant odor, only slight “shrimp” note, and non-acrid taste. There is a more common look-alike (same “blushing” stipe, but slightly acrid taste) in the area too. The singleton was definitely good eating, like Lactarius deliciosus, but with a nutty flavor. Many lobsters and Leccinum are out in the area too, along with a few Boletus barrowsi, Helvella crispa & lacunosa, and many others.

  2. Christopher May says:

    Yep! I tasted a little piece of every cap, and they all had a pleasant taste with no acridity at all. And zero complaints from my tummy after they were cooked and eaten.

    Amazed the Barrows’ boletes are still out there. There were all kinds of russulas and lactarius up on the hill last weekend and I was hopeful that some lobsters would turn up too, but did not find a single one.

  3. Mike D says:

    I was up at the peaks yesterday and picked a few of what appeared to be shrimpies. They had no acrid taste when sampled. However, after consulting Arora’s tomb, I decided not to eat them. Arora mentions that they should stain yellow, slowly turning to brown when bruised. I didn’t see this on any of the Russula’s I picked. Did you notice this?

    • Christopher May says:

      One of mine showed slight yellow brown staining at the base, but did not taste noticeably different than the others. See photo. Kuo says they “often” show such staining. I confess I’ve not eaten those I’ve found in Arizona enough times to say for sure. (This is my third, and most greedy, time eating them.). This is a topic I’d like to discuss with the Az Mushroom Club crowd tomorrow at the foray in Payson.

      • Christopher May says:

        I agree the flavor reminds me more of nuts than seafood. I wonder if it is a similar species that just happens to agree with my digestive system.

        • Bill Warner says:

          Supposedly (and in the one specimen I taste tested this was true) the shrimp-like odor cooks away, and the flavor is “nutty.” That shrimp odor is probably trimethylamine, which humans can smell at low levels and is released by decaying fish. All the look alike “blushing stem” Russulas make sorting down to the xerampalina complex things a bit tedious, but if you are jonesing for some Russulaceae toothsomeness (and Lactarius deliciosus, rubrilactis, etc., are not out), it is probably worth the extra effort.

          By the way, Podaxis pistillaris is fruiting like crazy in the Phoenix area today and I did my first taste test of young, all-white specimens(simply browned in butter with no spices at all)–absolutely great! I would say they are better than about 2/3 of the species I have been collecting up the hill! The spore mass is creamy and the stipe (toss the fibrous section) and non-spore sections are firmer. I will be going after these in earnest in the future.

    • ccmaymd says:

      I spoke to Dr. Leathers of the Arizona Mushroom Club yesterday, and he did not think discoloration with bruising was a distinguishing feature for R. xerampelina, at least the version found here. He did emphasize the blush on the stipe and mild taste.

      I found a number of identical mushrooms yesterday on the foray near Forest Lakes that gave off the shrimp-like odor, especially after drying in the sun a few hours, and tasted the same as the last batch. I also did a spore print last night, which was a very light yellow, as expected for this species.

      Russula sure is a confusing genus. Would be nice if it were as generally easy and foolproof as safely eating, say, lobsters or puffballs, as there are just so darn many out there waiting to be collected….

      • Mike Dechter says:

        Thanks for passing on that info. I went out today and picked a few more… Gonna try them this time. Aspen boletes were out in huge numbers. Some good lobsters still around too. Other finds included honeys, plums and custard, and a club coral. Good times.

        Love this blog, by the way. Keep up the good work!

  4. ccmaymd says:

    Well, all I can say is start slow! It took me two days of testing before I felt comfortable having a normal-sized serving.

    And thanks for the kind words about the site. I have installed bbPress forum software on the blog and am in the process of getting it set up, so I hope to have a place soon where we can discuss Arizona stuff even more easily.

  5. Lauren Hudgins says:

    What kind of Suillus do you have there? It looks quite similar to ones we found around the shrimps in the cascades near Portland earlier today. We weren’t sure what it was.

  6. ccmaymd says:

    The kind with the browner, more decorated caps are S. lakei, and the yellower, smoother caps I judge to be S. kaibabensis, a very yellow species that grows under ponderosa pines in the Southwest.

    • Bill Warner says:

      Both Suillus pseudobrevipes and brevipes are the common, meatier and better eating ones with thick caps and fine pores; S. lakei is easy to identify by the very “non-suillus” hairy reddish brown pileus. The coarsly pored, thin-capped species are not really worth collecting for the pot; but the others are decent if pealed and cooked until brown (non-slimy at that stage).

      • Christopher May says:

        Those brevipes and pseudobrevipes you mention, Bill, are they the ones with the tiny pores, super-slimy cap, and lighter and less yellowish coloration, looking almost beige in color? I have only ever found one but I’m sure they must be common in some places and times…

  7. Christopher May says:

    They are also said to be good when dried to concentrate the flavor, and used to season foods such as soups and stews. I have some dried that I have not yet used in this manner.

    In the case of those in the basket pictured above, they were not just buggy, but hopelessly waterlogged by the end of the very rainy day. I ended up not bothering to save them.

  8. Ken Wang says:

    “No russulas are known to be deadly poisonous”
    Actually, russula subnigricans can be deadly.

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