Terry Stone sent a photograph of a solitary aspen bolete (Leccinum insigne complex) he found this week in Flagstaff. This is the first good edible bolete that we know of for the 2014 season.
The Flagstaff area has gotten a fair amount of rainfall this monsoon season, although not as much as in July 2013. A storm two weeks ago dropped five inches of rain in some locales in the Flagstaff area, and there have been intermittent rains ever since. This is the happy result. Nice find, Terry!
Neophytes, note the convex orange cap and the scabers on the stem. You’ll want to learn reliable recognition of this common and tasty edible that is characteristically found growing on the ground in conjunction with the quaking aspen, Populus tremuloides. These are delicious mushrooms, only slightly inferior to Boletus edulis or B. barrowsii. They may repeatedly fruit in the same location where they are found, in the same or subsequent seasons.
Members of the genus Leccinum tend to stain dark when cut or bruised, which some people find off-putting, but this does not affect the taste. The staining supposedly can be minimized by putting them in an acidic solution such as lemon juice or vinegar, but I’ve never bothered trying.
These mushrooms are often dried for later use, which strengthens and enhances the flavor, just as with many other boletes. They can also be blanched or half-sauteed and then frozen.
Some people show sensitivity to this species, ordinarily limited to minor gastrointestinal tract distress. There have been a few rare reports of more serious reactions from eating members of the Leccinum family, in other states farther north and east. No major medical complications are known from eating Leccinum picked in Arizona. Remember to cook these mushrooms thoroughly and perform an edibility test before indulging in a meal of them, and even when you have done so, remember that it’s best not to gorge yourself on large quantities of any wild mushroom.
Also note that there are small orange-capped Cortinarius that resemble a young aspen bolete and can be found growing under the same conditions. Take special care not to collect these. The cortina, the presence of gills rather than pores on the hymenium, and the absence of scabers on the stem should make them easy to recognize.