Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Return of the King (Bolete)

It’s usually around the beginning of August each year that King Bolete appears under the trees, along with his subjects. A warm spell such as we’re having now of 15-20C, along with a soft rain brings them out.

My Polish compatriots are already poking about the woods from the beginning of June. Soon tongues wag furiously that, Basia S--- already spotted a bolete in such and such a wood. Directions are always vague. The excitement is not even surpassed by the latest episode of East Enders.

Usually I don’t get serious until I see a few Fly Agarics by the side of the road. Fly Agarics --- what people around here refer to as “toadstools” are not to be tried unless you want an acid trip, sometimes a one way trip at that. Yet they have a curious symbiosis with the bolete. You tend to find them in the same part of the wood, not in the dense centre but close to the edge. Over here they prefer conifers. Boletes are usually found in pairs. If you find one, look around for its brother, a few feet away.

Fly Agaric (Amanita Muscaria)

And so to our recent haul --- from our local woods, and the forbidden woods patrolled by the fearsome Sir Gibbie, who has a particular dislike for wandering Poles with a bag under one arm. He chases them off when he sees them. That suits me to a T, as those woods are very prolific in boletes. No marauding Poles to put up with there. I know the back paths that take me to those woods.

Then the party begins! Whisky in one hand you clean the mushrooms --- brush off the dirt and duff, cut away any maggot eaten parts. Some go into a pot, the others on the drying tray. You can get a commercial dryer from Poland that will dry the mushrooms in a few hours. Air drying them, in our climate, takes a couple of weeks.

Drying for winter storage.

During the dark months we reconstitute them and serve with pasta.

Fresh boletes can be fried in a little butter and marjoram. After 15 minutes when they’re slightly brown,and the liquid has boiled off, serve them in an omelette. Browned onions and garlic add an interesting flavour, but be careful not to overwhelm the boletes' woodsy taste with too many onions.

Enjoy the mushrooms! Don’t tell anyone where you found them, as this is one instance where Charity is not usually rewarded.