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Boletaceae: The Bolete Family

Boletus edulis: King Bolete mushroom.

The boletes are a large family of mushrooms with tubes on the underside of the cap, instead of gills. The king bolete (Boletus edulis) is definitely my favorite mushroom, mostly for its great, meaty flavor, but also because it can be found in large servings. The tube-like pores are edible, but kind of slimy, unless harvested while very firm, so they are usually removed prior to cooking. King boletes are edible raw, but may cause digestive upset in some people.

Here in southwest Montana I find the king bolete usually growing in the moist soil beneath the spruce trees, mostly along our mountain streams. It reportedly also grows with pines, firs, and hemlock trees, and to a lesser extent with oaks and birches.

Searching for king boletes on one camping trip, I heard a snapping branch in the forest ahead of me. I stepped into the woods to find a small patch of boletes growing right beside the freshly buried carcass of a deer killed by a mountain lion. I realized that the sound of the snapping branch I heard was the lion, possibly jumping down from one of the trees as it ran away. Approaching the lion's kill for a handful of boletes seemed like a potentially risky meal, but of course these were king boletes and worth risking my life... I collected the bounty and got out of there quickly!

Another common mushroom of this family here in southwest Montana is the painted suillus (Suillus lakei), always found in association with Douglas Fir trees. The color varies considerably, but the one shown here was brick red on the cap and quite yellow underneath. I am also familiar with an orange-cap bolete (Leccinum insigne), the slippery jack (Suillus brevipes) and the poor man's slippery jack (Suillus tomatosis), all of which I will readily eat--but only when king boletes are not available.

Arora, David. All That the Rain Promises, and More... Ten Speed Press: Berkeley, CA. 1991.
Arora, David. Mushrooms Demystified, Second Edition. Ten Speed Press: Berkeley, CA. 1986.
Phillips, Roger. Mushrooms of North America. Little, Brown & Co.: Boston. 1991.
Schalkwijk-Barendsen, Helene M.E. Mushrooms of Northwest North America. Lone Pine Publishing: Redmond, WA. 1991.

-Check out my favorite mushroom guides.-

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Foraging the Mountain West: Gourmet Edible Plants, Mushrooms, and Meat.
Foraging the
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Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
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