Matsutake alert!

Moselio Schaechter mschaech at sunstroke.sdsu.edu
Thu Dec 7 20:06:37 EST 2000


How about another category, the gastronomically neglected species?

I have in mind Hygrophorus fuligineus, which has been almost totally
neglected in recent field guides.  The authoritative Bessette et al.
Mushrooms of  Northeastern  North America only has it in a key and states:
"edibility unknown."  McIlaine and Krieger, however, do it full justice.
It is  abundant in New England late in the season, often the predominant
species in pine and pine-hemlock woods.   It is a choice edible mushroom,
one of the best in my experience.    The same goes for Hygrophorus
flavodiscus and some others.

May I be so presumptious as to quote from my book, In the Company of Mushrooms?

	"On the last weekend of September, we went on a mushroom walk in
Harvard Forest, in Petersham, Massachusetts. We found a few specimens of a
late fall mushroom, Hygrophorus fuligineus, that I wanted to introduce to
my wife and were given a few more by one of our hosts. This "waxy cap" does
not have a widely accepted common name. It is barely mentioned in modern
field guides, although it appears prominently in older ones. To someone
collecting in New England, this oversight seems odd because this species is
often found under pine trees in the late fall. Waxy caps come in many
varieties, some in spectacularly bright red and yellow colors. They have in
common a waxy feeling, especially on the gills. Almost unique in this
group, H. fuligineus has a dark, almost black cap. Several of the edible
varieties, including H. fuligineus, have an added characteristic: they
become covered with a thick, translucent, glutinous layer that becomes so
copious that it flows over the cap's margin. This material gives the
mushrooms a lovely shiny appearance, but it makes them unpleasant to touch,
and it is very hard to get rid of bits of pine needles and other debris
from the sticky surface. The slimy material is made up of a polysaccharide
that functions as antifreeze and protects this late species from the chill
of the northern fall.
	We fought the cleaning battle with our specimens and got them ready
for cooking. Their glutinous covering made them good candidates for a
smooth cream soup. We cut up the mushrooms and sautéed them with onions,
celery, and parsley, put them through a blender and added cream. We added
only a very small amount of flour, as indeed thickening was
provided-okra-like-by the mushrooms themselves. A little white wine,
paprika, and chopped chives added to the flavor. We did well, because the
soup was rich in taste and it had a pleasant velvety consistency. In
general, you cannot go wrong by processing mushrooms in a blender to make
soup, as this intensifies the flavor to a remarkable extent. Even
relatively insipid species, such as most of the russulas, gain from the
process."

Elio Schaechter
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