The best place to study fungi is in your own particular environment. In the Salentine macchia we find a variety of boleti, including Boletus edulis: some of them have a ‘lurid’ aspect, notably B luridus, B erythropus and B cyanescens, which all turn blue when touched. This alarming colour vanishes in cooking, when they assume a reassuring yellow colour. Some people think this colour change is ominous. It isn’t. They also believe that a boletus which has been nibbled by small animals must be innocuous to man. This is not the case. I recently saw the nibbled white cap of B satanas, a fungus highly suspect. Get to know it.
Two other edible boleti of dramatic appearance are B appendiculatus and B regius found in pine woods and among kermes oaks on calcareous soil.
The great thing with all boleti is to cut specimens in their first youth when both cap and tubes are firm and the swollen stem is not yet attacked by insects.
To Cook Them. These are then cleaned, wiped and sliced. Heat some olive oil in an earthenware pot or enamelled pan. Fry the fungi, adding salt and pepper, on a good heat, turning them with a wooden spoon until they’re golden brown and crisp, then drain on kitchen paper. Pour off the oil (which can be used again), replace the fungi in the pot or pan, add a good piece of butter and some freshly chopped parsley and garlic, and reheat. Serve very hot.
If I have a certain reputation in the wilderness for ‘knowing about fungi’, it is not just the result of years of study but owing to the possession of an invaluable reference work: Les Champignons comestibles et vénéneux by
The following recipes, French and Italian, demonstrate the essential simplicity in cooking fungi. The next chapter examines this absorbing subject from the Catalan point of view.