One of the best parts of modern mushroom hunting is the amount of information that gets shared on a daily basis. Tons of information and observations are shared daily, and depending on how many groups and regions you pay attention to, there’s a lot you can glean without having to leave your home. A great example for me in 2018 was when my friend Pete posted to one of our local forums about a Lactarius he’d picked earlier this year using a name I hadn’t heard before: thyinos.
I like Saffron milkcaps, but the patches I pick near the Twin Cities proper with red and eastern white pine are picky about when they’d like to fruit, and when they do come up, it can be invisible: the mushrooms can be buried completley under inches of needle duff, with mushrumps (bumps in the forest floor indicating mushrooms) so imperceptable they may as not even exist. As big a fan in excercises in futility that I am, I prefer my mushrooms visible, clean, and not buried under needles.
I kept striking out at my pine patches around St. Paul, but, traveling up north I found an easier way to grab bags full of the deliciousus group: change terrain. Instead of hitting patches of pine woods inside of larger decisduous forest, I just drove a couple hours north into the taiga, where conifers rule and oaks are the rarity.
(Michael Kuo says they’re well known in cedar bogs) A number of places with aspen, birch and cedar where I hunt Leccinum and chanterelles were bursting with bright orange mushrooms, and I was thrilled when I picked a few up and noticed that they didn’t stain green when bruised or touched, at all.
Typical Saffron milkcaps, Lactarius deliciousus are ok to eat. They’re not going to exactly blow your mind, but they make up for it with the shock of seeing brilliant orange mushooms popping up through the pine needles. Id I see deliciousus, I’m probably going to pick them. The biggest draw back with L. deliciousus is visual: (along with the typical bug damage you might see with Lactarius in the Midwest) the mushrooms stain a dingy green when bruised, and although it doesn’t affect the flavor, it’s definitely unnapealing. After tromping around in the woods in your bag or backpack, that haul of brilliant orange mushrooms can arrive in your kitchen a bruised green mess, depending on how much they were jostled in transportation. Sometimes to preserve colors of mushrooms that bruise, I’ll carry paper towels or wax paper with to wrap delicate mushrooms individually.
Before I even cooked them, the absence of green bruising alone shot these to the top of the Deliciousus group for me. After I ate a few I was even more impressed, they cooked up like a dream, and the flavor was great. Typical saffron milkcaps get a bad rap for being crumbly or grainy tasting, the thyinos were better on all counts for me. The structure of the mushrooms is noticeably lighter, more delicate than other saffron milkcaps. The lighter structure and overall delicate-ness seemed to translated to a better eating experience, but that might just be the mangalitsa lard talking.
Either way, these are super easy to mushrooms from the delciousus group, and good eaters. Keep your eyes open for them.
You can obviously sub these for saffron milkcaps in any recipe. As I’ve mentioned before, Spain’s love for milkcaps in this family is unaparallelled, so they have a number of preparations that call for them specifically, the favorites I’ve found being fricando (dish of braised veal) and Catalan saffron milkcaps (cooked with sausage).
Fricando of veal with saffron milkcaps
Catalan saffron milkcaps
Saffron milkcaps with chickpeas and Gran Queso
Saffron milkcap paella
Fried saffron milkcaps with yogurt
Conserve (I like to blanch saffron milkcaps should before preserving to remove mucilage)