Lactarius volemus, corrugis, and hygrophoroides – Three Amigos

Here we are into August in the Great Valley of the Tennessee, between the Cumberland Plateau and the Smoky Mountains. The rains have finally returned and  the three amigos – the three similar Lactarius species : L. volemus, L. corrugis, and L. hygrphoides – have shown up.

The picture of the three, L. hygrophoides (L), L. volemus (C), and L. corrugis (R) shows differences in color, but they all share several characteristics of interest to pot hunters (Note: a pot hunter, in a mushroom context, is a person hunting mushrooms for the cooking pot, not someone else’s wild-cultivated reefer).Fischer and Bessette lump the three together for edibility purposes, and present the following identifying characteristics for the group (Field-to-Kitchen Guide; see “books”). Check for “fishy smell” aand brown staining.
Notice in the picture that L. hygrophoides has distant gills – that is, they are far apart. Dirt gets in there much more than in the densely spaced gills of the other two. So . . . harder to clean, and also a little more fragile.

Once one becomes familiar with these species they become fairly easy to recognize. I always use smell as my key trait, even if I’m 99% sure on on everything else. That’s because, when odor is not there it also means to me that the mushroom has aged, is dry or other-wise not prime. Sort of a self-check mechanism.  I try not to let my ego get in the pot with the mushrooms!

Your experience may be different; however, my experience is that the “voluminous milky caps” taste a little nutty when sautéed in butter, so my favorite way to prepare them is the standard sautéed then put in scrambled eggs. I usually discard the stem as I find it a little dry/chalky. Stems are usually the first part that insects infest, because they tunnel up from the ground. The caps of these mushrooms are relatively thin; however, they hold together pretty good. Not like some thin, watery mushrooms that turn to mush when cooked.

These mushroom store fairly well.  I can keep them a week of more wrapped loosely in wax paper, several in a bunch. I leave the stems on for storage because it keeps the caps separated for air movement. They may not look as pretty after a week, but that will be mainly due to the latex staining the exterior – especially the gills which exude latex along with the stem when cut.

I’ve got 1 ½ lb. in the frig and going out this morning. So,  I’m  looking forward to my “voluminous” frittata tonight. Click on recipes in the side bar.

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