Continuing with the typical fruits of the autumn season, let’s talk about the lactarius deliciosus, also known as the saffron milk cap. It is a highly prized variety and quite abundant in our forests.
Let’s begin by identifying the species and highlighting its characteristics. We’ll also explore the forests and the ideal period for easily harvesting this delightful and precious mushroom.
The saffron milk cap is not as well-known and widespread as porcini mushrooms, but it is undoubtedly worth appreciating for its qualities and its potential uses in the kitchen. To further illustrate its value, we will include a simple recipe in this article – saffron milk caps with potatoes. We are confident that it will further encourage you in your search for this delicious and valuable fungus.
Identification and Growing Conditions of saffron Milk Caps
Lactarius deliciosus belongs to the class of agaricomycetes, order Russulales, and family Russulaceae.
The stem of lactarius deliciosus is short, measuring between 3 and 8 cm in length, with a diameter of about 2-3 cm.; the stem’s surface is characterized by sporadic bright orange depressions known as scrobicules, which are of a more intense color than the rest of the stem, which is light orange. The spores are ellipsoid, measuring 7-9 x 6-7 microns, and form a well-defined network of crests.
Texture, Taste, and Smell of saffron Milk Caps
The flesh of saffron milk caps is highly valued. It is firm and compact in the cap and spongy in the stem. The color is reddish-orange beneath the cap’s surface and tends to turn green when exposed to air. It offers various taste and smell characteristics:
- The latex has a delicate taste initially, which becomes slightly bitter after a while.
- The smell of the mushroom is very pleasant and fruity.
- The taste is intense yet sweetish. It also has a bitter aftertaste conferred by the latex, as well as mild pungency.
Other Types of Lactarius Mushrooms
A close relative of lactarius deliciosus is lactarius sanguifluus. This variety is easily recognizable by its intense red latex color.
Other similar species include lactarius deterrimus and lactarius salmonicolor. These two species can also be distinguished by their preferred habitats. The former grows under the red fir tree, while the latter is found under the white fir tree.
Now, let’s explore the habitat and the ideal growing period of saffron milk caps.
Where and When Do saffron Milk Caps Grow?
Saffron milk caps typically grow in Mediterranean pine forests, from hillsides to medium altitudes. This characteristic makes it easy to identify and distinguish them from other lactarius species.
Saffron milk caps can yield abundant harvests. Their main feature is that once they start growing, they can be found clustered in large numbers beneath pine trees, making them highly visible.
However, harvesting the first specimens can be a bit more challenging as they hide well among the needles.
The growth period for saffron milk caps is in autumn. Unlike porcini mushrooms, they are challenging to find in summer or spring. The ideal months are October and November. However, since this species can withstand the cold well, the harvest can extend until early winter. Experienced gatherers even report finding them under the first snowfalls.
For the collection of lactarius deliciosus, the same rules that apply to porcini mushrooms should be followed. These are good behavioral norms that must safeguard the integrity of the forest ecosystem above all.
The Recipe for saffron Milk Caps with Potatoes
As mentioned earlier, saffron milk caps are appreciated for their excellent organoleptic qualities. Not only in our country but also in Europe, North America, and Australia.
This recipe is a typical dish from the Sila gastronomic tradition, very simple and accessible to everyone: Lactarious deliciosus with potatoes. This dish brings out the unique taste of these mushrooms to the fullest.
Ingredients for 6 people:
- 1 kg of potatoes (preferably Sila potatoes)
- 1 clove of garlic
- Extra virgin olive oil
- ½ glass of red wine
- Caciocavallo cheese
- Origano and rosemary
- Fresh red chili pepper
The preliminary step is, of course, cleaning the saffron milk caps. The damaged parts and soil residues must be removed from the mushrooms. Once cleaned, they should be gently washed under running water, dried with a soft cloth, and cut into small pieces.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into sufficiently large wedges. Then, place them together with the mushrooms in a large pan, add extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt, herbs, and chili pepper.
After trying this dish, we are sure that saffron milk caps will rise to the top of your preferences, and you won’t be able to resist collecting them during your forest outings. Happy harvesting and bon appétit!
PS – After each harvest, it is essential to have the mushrooms checked by the appropriate health offices.
- University of Washington: “Lactarius deliciosus” – This resource discusses the species Lactarius deliciosus, which has been applied, in both North America and Europe, to a widespread group of common mushrooms.
- Michigan State University: “Lactarius deliciosus – Bonito Lab” – This resource discusses that Lactarius deliciosus is widely distributed and collected as food. This species name actually refers to a group of separate species.
- University of Wisconsin: “Lactarius indigo, the indigo milk mushroom, Tom Volk’s …” – This resource discusses the species Lactarius indigo, the indigo milk mushroom. Some Lactarius are delicious edible mushrooms, but many are poisonous.
- University of Maine: “B779: Ectomycorrhizae of Maine. 2 A Listing of Lactarius …” – This resource discusses that Lactarius deliciosus is abundant in mixed softwoods, with an occasional white pine and some red pine. It is edible and probably the most often eaten species of Lactarius.
- University of Michigan: “Lactarius deliciosus / Orange-latex Milky / Orange-milk …” – This resource discusses the species Lactarius deliciosus, also known as Orange-latex Milky, Orange-milk Lactarius, Delicious Lactarius.