There are over 200 varieties of boletes mushrooms, with at least 300 species in existence. The mushroom has many lookalikes, and with that many species in one family, it can be hard to identify which ones are safe and which ones are not. So, it’s important to know what you’re doing before you go forage for these fungi in the wild.
Let’s take a look at the benefits, types, and more, exploring boletes.
Bolete Mushroom Classification
Boletes are the common name for the genus Boletus in the fungi family. There are more 300 species, with at least 200 varieties that have been identified. The genus was originally defined by famous mycologist Carl Linnaeus in 1753, into the group that generically meant the mushrooms do not have gills, but rather spores. Since that time, a more complex process of identification has moved the fungi into a genus of their own. Most boletes are ectomycorrhizal fungi, which means they have a symbiotic relationship with the trees and plants around which they grow. They help each other with nutrients.
The name for the genus comes from the Greek and means “lump” or “clod.”
How Many Types of Bolete Mushrooms are There?
There are many, many types of bolete mushrooms, some of which are edible and some which are not. The most common species you’ll find as you forage and explore the wild include the following.
- Boletus aerus – found in Spain
- Boletus badius – found in temperate regions in Europe and North America
- Boletus dupainii – found in Europe, rarely in North America
- Boletus edulis – also known as King Bolete – found in Europe and North America
- Boletus erythropus var. erythropus – found in northern Europe
- Boletus pinophilus – found in Spain
- Boletus appendiculatus – found in Europe, rarely in Britain
- Boletus fechtneri – found in Europe
- Boletus fragrans – found in the Iberian Peninsula
- Boletus impolitus – found in the Mediterranean
Where Do Bolete Mushrooms Grow?
Bolete mushrooms are most likely to be found in woodlands, near their margins and edges, typically under hardwood trees and conifers. They particularly love oak, birch, aspen, Sitka spruce, pine, and western hemlock tree.
Are Bolete Mushrooms Safe to Eat?
With the some 300+ mushroom species in the boletes family, there are many edible mushrooms. There are also many toxic mushrooms that can cause symptoms ranging from stomachache to severe illness, but none are known to be deadly to adult humans. The toxic ones may be deadly for children and animals, though, so it’s important to know for sure what species you have.
The boletes with red pores are most likely toxic, so avoid these. And always only try a very small portion of the mushrooms before eating a full serving to ensure you aren’t going to get ill.
What Do Bolete Mushrooms Taste Like?
The most popular edible bolete mushroom is the King Bolete, so we’ll focus on that one, as there are far too many species to describe. The King bolete has a rich, earthy flavor that’s complex and nutty. Its flavor is rich and the texture is meaty.
Health Benefits of Bolete Mushrooms
King bolete mushrooms are a great source for protein, iron, and dietary fiber. It also contains B complex vitamins, selenium, manganese, and zinc, among other healthy nutrients that may help boost your health and your mood.
There is research being conducted into the long-term effects of the mushroom and the overall health benefits. In the meantime, there are plenty of claims of the mushroom helping kill colon cancer cells without killing healthy colon cells, to help reduce inflammation, and to treat asthma. There are no known studies that have proven any of these, however, and the ideas are just hearsay at this point.
How Are Bolete Mushrooms Used?
Bolete mushrooms, particularly King boletes, are often dried and reconstituted for meal preparations. The mushrooms have been popular in culinary uses for centuries. The fresh boletes are favored, of course, and often fried in oil or butter with herbs and spices for a fresh sauté dish or side. They may be served with brown sauces, paired with steak or broil chicken or fish, added into rice bowls, baked or added to mashed potatoes. They are often battered in eggs and bread crumbs and deep fried.
How Much Do Bolete Mushrooms Cost?
Boletes are not the cheapest mushroom on the market (look for cremini for that!), but they’re not the most expensive, either. You’ll often find them for around $4 an ounce, which makes them hefty but not impossible for many people.
Where to Forage for Bolete Mushrooms?
If you’re ready to do some foraging yourself to find boletes, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind.
Best Times to Forage
First, it’s important to note when boletes are out and where the mushrooms are likely to be hiding. Do a search for your local area to find the best times for your zone. Typically they will be found in autumn, post summer rains.
Best Places to Find Boletes
For location, look for boletes under oak and hemlock trees in particular, among sphagnum moss. They also love spruce trees and may be found in lawns and grasses beneath other conifer trees. Many forests have plenty of the mushrooms, but finding the right species could be the tricky part.
Know How to Identify the Edible Species
Because there are literally hundreds of bolete species you could making your way through in the forests, it’s important to know how to identify them (see below). It’s a good idea to use an identification app or bring along a mycologist as you first get started. There are also likely to be some foraging and mycology clubs or societies near you that may hold events and tours through which you can learn more.
How to Identify Bolete Mushrooms
Identifying boletes is an important aspect to your foraging. The wrong species can make you pretty ill and could turn you off the interest.
The mushrooms will typically have a large, thick cap that is curved when young or flat-topped when mature. The coloration will be light to reddish brown, with white flesh that doesn’t stain. The texture is dense but becomes spongier and soft as it ages. The stem is wider near the bottom, very thick, and whitish to reddish brown in color. They will have raised, netlike color patterns near the top. Since there are so many species, having some visuals will help. Try a great photo gallery of many boletes species for easier identification.
Other Tips for Identification
- If there is any red coloration on the stem, cap, or pores, avoid the mushroom. It is likely toxic and will make you ill.
- Slice the bolete in half vertically and see if the flesh turns blueish. If it does, discard and avoid!
- The pores of toxic boletes are discolor to green or blue, so if you see any of these, stay away from them as well.
Bolete Mushroom Trivia
Boletes are interesting mushrooms with some intriguing qualities to them. First off, they don’t have any gills. Instead, they have pores under their caps, which often indicate their edibility (or lack thereof) by their color. Bright pores – run!
There are numerous species of both edible and inedible boletes in North America. Many of them are bitter, though, so the genus as a whole doesn’t always “read well” to some audiences. Generally, if they taste bitter, it’s better to stay away from them anyway, as they may make you sick. The mushrooms are also around year-round, but they don’t last long. Their best season is autumn.
You can actually boletes in grocery stores and farmer’s markets at certain times of year, as well, usually in summer and autumn. They’ll often be vacuum packed and sold in other seasons, though, but their flavor isn’t as high quality like this.
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- The Travel Bug Bite, Available here: https://thetravelbugbite.com/2020/07/25/bolete-mushrooms/
- Healing Mushrooms, Available here: https://healing-mushrooms.net/Boletus-edulis
- Gardening On, Available here: https://www.jardineriaon.com/en/boletus-comestibles-no-comestibles.html
- First Nature, Available here: https://www.first-nature.com/fungi/~boletales.php
- Edible Wildfood, Available here: https://www.ediblewildfood.com/blog/2017/08/how-to-identify-boletes/
- Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boletus