That is a very small bolete, is what I thought the first few times I ran into Gyroporus castaneus, also known as the chestnut bolete. Most of the time when I find them they’re itt-bitty, teeny-tiny, and scattered. So scattered in fact, that it’s easy to just pay them no mind, I mean, I love identifying mushrooms, but I’m picking them to eat, and if there isn’t a decent fruiting to warrant bringing them home, I’ll probably pass, no matter what it is.
If it wasn’t for the glowing review of the taste from a number of different authors in the field and some of my older hunting pals, I probably wouldn’t have ever paid them any mind, and that would’ve been a mistake.
These are common in mixed hardwood forests of Eastern North America in the summer when the boletes are out (they’re absent to very rare in Western North America). I see them often sprinkled throughout woods with red and white oak trees where I look for porcini. G. castaneus occasionally grows in small groups, but more often than not, I see them alone and scattered across the woods similar to other boletus mushrooms.
For years, the process of picking them for me went like this: pick one Gyroporus, pick another Gyroporus, then completely forget about them until I get home, unload the haul, and notice the little chestnut boletes have been completely crushed under the weight of chanterelles.
Oh well, I didn’t find too many anyway, I’d think. I honestly meant to eat and enjoy the chestnut boletes every time I picked them, but a golden pile of chanterelles has a mesmerizing quality.
As I was talking with another mushroom forager I know earlier this week discussing fruiting patterns of Lactifluus, we touched on how odd mushroom fruiting patterns can be. Some years you might get a wonderful harvest, the next year, not a single one, even if the mushroom gods give rain.
Well this year, it was a good for Gyroporus, and I came upon more of them than ever before, enough to enjoy, and a lot of them were as big as large chanterelles.
After the multiple hunts over the years where I just chucked them into the bag with everything else, this year I was ready. I’ve been making sure to keep some small brown sandwich bags in my mushroom pack, useful for keeping mushrooms separate, or making sure some things don’t stain the others (black trumpets).
I got about 2 pounds of the little guys: plenty to document some of the variation they show as they grow, and have a couple meals.
Quick ID tips
- A hollow, thin walled stem, which may not be hollow until they’re mature.
- A rich, chestnut brown cap when young, that gradually turns to tawny, or beige.
- The spore print is pale yellow.
- Typically growing near oak trees.
- Very tight, brilliant white pores when young, opening up only slightly as they age.
- Compared to other boletes I eat, these have a very small stature, they’re short and stout, and I’ve never seen them more than about 2-3 inches in diameter of the cap, at the very largest. See the picture above with a penny for scale.
General Cleaning and Cooking
These are usually very clean, aside from a brush or two and a once over for bugs, I have never found I have to clean them too much.
Cooking is fun, but needs a delicate touch. As with Leccinum species, the stem has a different texture and cooking time compared to the cap, so I like separate the two, then cook both the caps and stems whole. Trying to slice these will likely result in overcooking, or them getting lost in whatever you make, much better to leave them in pieces as large as possible to get that bolete “pop” when you bite into a large piece of them.
When you’re dreaming up how to showcase your Gyroporus, keep it simple, and if you want to taste them, make sure to cook them alone. Simply sauteed and spooned on top of a piece of meat or fish is wonderful, especially with a touch of shallots, garlic or parsley tossed in at the end. See the example recipe with pigeon below here.
The flavor is excellent, nutty, and delicious. As I mention above, you can likely cook these whole, or in large pieces too, as they have a great resistance to bugs, which is pretty rare with many of the boletes you might enjoy.