Bay bolete is a beloved edible mushroom with a fine, chestnut-colored cap and light brown stem. It thrives in the darkness in acidic soil under heavy conifers. Think of it as “Karl Johan light.”
Where to Find It
Bay boletes are fairly common in coniferous forests and can sometimes be found in deciduous forests where the floor is more acidic. They live in dark areas: where there is heavy ground cover from conifer needles, near tree stumps, and at the edge of clearings in pine forests.
When to Find It
Bay boletes pop up in September and October, but you may also be lucky enough to find them throughout the summer and into November. A warm, wet fall will bring a great number of bolete mushrooms.
Entire mushroom: July, August, September, October, November.
How to Spot It
Bay boletes are recognizable by their half-domed, chocolate brown caps and greenish pores. The stem has brown stripes, but is lighter than the solid-colored surface of the cap. As the mushroom ages, its cap becomes more irregular in shape until it finally flattens. It will also take on a slightly glistening appearance as the meat of the mushroom become less firm. Bay boletes can grow up to 15 cm tall with a cap diameter of around 12 cm. When you cut through the mushroom or push on the ends of its pores, you'll notice that the flesh turns bluish.
How to Pick It
Cut off the mushroom one centimeter above the ground and dust off the dirt with a small brush. You can also remove some of the dirt by slicing off the bottom of the stem with a knife. Snails and worms really like bay boletes, so check where you cut to see if the mushroom was attacked by vermin or if the flesh is even. Generally, worms attack only the stem and middle part of the cap.
On the palate
Bay boletes have a classic, slightly nutty mushroom flavor that is somewhat less intense than Karl Johan mushrooms. Their flesh is firm, but softer and spongier in older mushrooms.
The younger specimens of bay bolete have a subtle fruity scent, while the older mushrooms are muskier.
Bay boletes are superb edible mushrooms, but should be cooked. When you fry them, turn up the heat at first to lock in moisture and maintain their springy texture. The caps of older specimens tend to become slimy. If the slime is too off-putting, you can remove the skin from the mushroom's cap with the tip of a knife. Cut off the pore surface of old boletes and discard it, as they can become quite bitter, and turn slimy and absorb a lot of oil when cooked. You can dry the cut off pores in the oven until crisp, then grind them into mushroom flour.
Small bay boletes, which look almost like champagne corks, can be marinated whole or cut in half and sautéed. Medium-sized caps that still have firm flesh make a good choice for stuffing and grilling. You can chop large mushrooms that show signs of age into smaller pieces and use in stews or soups. Bay boletes pair well with crisp bitter herbs such as garlic mustard and garden sorrel.
Store the freshly picked mushrooms in a plastic bag in your refrigerator, where they'll stay fresh for two to three days. Dry, freeze, salt, or pickle mushrooms that you don't use right away to extend their shelf life. You can also wash and store them in a good olive oil with some herbs such as marjoram or thyme, but this will shorten their shelf life.
Other boletes can be substituted for bay bolete as needed.
Risk of misidentifying the plant
The smooth, brown colors and greenish-yellow pores that turn blue when pressed make it easy to recognize bay boletes. If you're in a hurry, however, you can mistake it for other (edible) boletes such as slippery jack, variegated bolete, and weeping bolete, which aren't exactly interesting in cooking.