The Pacific Northwest is often seen as the mushroom hunting capital of the U.S. with it's longer, more temperate climate. But, with their wealth of woods and lakes, Minnesota and Wisconsin offer some of the greatest mushroom hunting in North America for foragers. I should know as I've lived here my whole life. The Midwest has an abundance of delicious wild mushrooms and wild foods in general-some of which you won't find on the West Coast, like hen of the woods.
Mushroom guides are helpful in showing the most common edible mushroom species like oyster mushrooms or Minnesota's state mushroom (morels), but there's many other delicious edible fungi to discover that deserve recognition, and a place in your basket.
Without further ado, here's my top ten underrated mushrooms I think you should know from my two favorite states. If you have any to add, please leave a comment.
Bouillon Boletes (Lanmoa carminipes and others)
Or maybe it's Lanmoa psuedosensibilis? I used to think they were Boletus Pallidoroseus. Whatever they are, the suede-like caps, pretty pink stems and brilliant blue staining are something to behold. These beautiful boletes are a joy to cook with in the kitchen, and after slicing open a pristine, bug-free stem and cooking your first meal, I think you might agree they're better than the local porcini.
Drying them will reveal an irresistible aroma of beef bouillon. The best place to look for them is white oak savannahs around the Twin Cities in July when the boletes start to fruit.
Resinous Polypore (Ischnoderma resinosum)
Back in 2013, I was one of the first people to write about eating this polypore, a cousin to chicken and hen of the woods. Called the Salisbury steak of the woods by some, the firm, juicy texture of the outer cap margin makes a great addition to any mushroom dish. They're decomposers of hardwoods, and I usually see them during the summer when chicken of the woods are at their peak.
Newfoundland Chanterelle (Cantharellus enelensis)
White Cantharellus phasmatis gets most of the limelight, this pine-loving chanterelle of the Northern Minnesota's Coniferous forests and Pine Barrens of Wisconsin deserves its due credit.
Named by my friends Andrus Votik and Professor Greg Thorn in 2013, these are the largest chanterelle of our region and can be found from mid July-Sept.
They rarely have bugs, and have a uniquely long, burrowing stem made for popping up through heavy pine needle duff. Their love of woods with red pine, jack pine and balsam fir means that they're also easy to clean and free of dirt. Even a small patch will quickly fill your basket quickly.
Black Staining Polypore (Meripilus sumstinei)
Rare in Minnesota and more common in Wisconsin, this underappreciated polypore is easy to identify from it's black staining when bruised. While most mushroom hunters eschew it for it's tough texture, the outer margin is tender.
The greatest characteristic is the flavor: a combination of hen of the woods mushrooms mixed with the sweet, beguiling aroma of black trumpet mushrooms. Look for them in July-August in hardwood forests, and if you find one, keep the location to yourself.
The Yellow Leccinum (Hemileccinum subglabripes)
Unique in the Leccinum genus, brilliant yellow boletes lack the namesake scabers of their cousins. They're common in Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin in pine-dominated woods of the North.
They have a great, mellow mushroom flavor everyone will love, and seem near-invincible to bugs. They can be harvested in good volume during the fall, around August through September.
Lobster Mushrooms (Hypomyces lactiflourum)
We take lobsters for granted in the Midwest. These hey can be harvested in fantastic quantities in mixed hardwood forests around the Twin Cities, Northern Minnesota, and Northern Wisconsin, especially around Cable. Around the country other mushroom hunters aren't as lucky.
A traditional mushroom of Michoacan peninsula of Mexico, they're known as the Tromba de Puerco (pork horn), and are usually boiled, then fried with jalapeno, onions and tomato and eaten with tortillas-something I think Chef Jorge Guzman could work wonders with at Petite Leon in Minneapolis.
Yellowfoot Chanterelles (Craterellus ignicolor & tubaeformis)
Along with their cousin C. tubaeformis, these small, delicate chanterelles love red hardwood forests with red oak and can be found in the summer from July-August when the chanterelles are at their peak.
Many mushroom hunters pass them by due to the small size of the fruiting bodies, but one taste of them cooked in a simple broth and you might just start going out of your way to pick them exclusively.
Small Saffron Milkcap (Lactarius thyinos)
With it's bright orange color, crunchy texture and stoic resistance to bugs, the small saffron milk cap is superior to its more common, and often buggy cousins.
Loved in Europe, but especially in Spain where it's known as the rovellon or niscalo, the caps are traditionally cooked whole on a griddle or plancha with garlic and parsley. Look for them in the fall in the Northern Coniferous forests of both states, especially in woods with hemlock trees.
Hygorphorus Waxy Cap (Hygrophorus russula)
An edible waxy cap with a great, crunchy texture, these are rarely seen in field guides or mushroom certification classes. They like to grow in mixed woods during early Fall.
Their mild flavor means texture is the best attribute, and they're the perfect mushroom to use in spicy curries and dishes with strong flavors. If you have a suggestion for a better common name, please comment.
Aspen Boletes (Leccinum aurantiacum and others)
With brilliant orange caps that stick out in the woods like a sore thumb, these aspen-loving boletes are common in the summer in both states. Loved by the Eastern European mushroom hunters of the region, Leccinum species aren't harvested by many foragers.
Drying greatly improves their flavor as well as making them safer to eat as they can potentially be a poisonous mushroom if undercooked. Once you taste them ground to a black powder and used as a seasoning for a steak or soup you'll be a convert too.