Boletes – a lost resource

“Few orders of plants appear to contribute more to the support of animal life in Western Australia.  Many species, Particularly, the genus Boletus, are used as food by the natives and directly supply no inconsiderable portion of their support for several months a year.”

James Drummond, the pioneer botanist of WA.

This quote is from an article by eminent mycologist Roger Hilton, in a short article about edible fungi he wrote in the journal Landscope in 1988.

In Western Australia there is a large number of boletes that spring up each Autumn.  Judging from overseas experience, it is likely that a lot of these are edible species, but all of the knowledge of Aboriginal consumption of these fungi sadly has been lost.

Hilton comments there are boletes that will make you sick, but none that are known to be lethal like the Amanitas.   However, there has been one recorded case of a fatality from eating a bolete.  In this case it was from muscarine in the mushroom. 

From time to time, I experiment with some of the many boletes that spring up on my property.  My standard test is to lightly fry a few small slices in some oil and do a taste test.   By this means, I have been able to eliminate a few as being too revolting to consider.   There remain others that are tantalisingly tasty.  I tried one a few hours ago.   It was a handsome specimen with firm white flesh and a black cap.   When cooked in this way, it produced a wonderful tasting type of crisp.  So far, I am feeling no ill effects from the very small pieces that I tasted.   But this is not for the faint-hearted!   Over the years, by cautious exploration, I hope to be able to find one or two boletes that are edible.  I would rather be using a gas chromatograph for the initial assessments, however.

Presently, the only boletes that are known to be edible are the Slippery Jacks and Phlebopus marginatus, the Salmon Gum mushroom which often appears in the news because of it’s giant size.

1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Karen Drimer said,

    Hello, I don’t know if you will get this comment since this post was from a while ago. Your post made me chuckle because there has been more than one time when friends and/or family have watched and clucked in horror as I have tasted some hitherto, for me and them, unidentified possible food-stuff! So far I have survived, I think that for those of us who taste things there is some intuitive direction happening, though I don’t doubt the occasional belly ache (though I haven’t had many, if any), if it tastes or smells awful then I don’t eat it. There’s that asian fruit, durian, that tastes and smells awful and I don’t eat that either, though apparently it isn’t poisonous! Which only goes to show……
    Anyway, happy 2011 to you, I will be checking back on your blog every now and then because I love to photograph fungi and am interested therefore in identifying them and reading about them too. And knowing in advance that someone else has already tasted it and survived is a wondrous thing!


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