.Milky Cap Mushrooms
- Lactarius Deliciosus
- Lactarius Rubrilacteus
- Lactarius Fragilis
The group of mushrooms known as Lactarius are commonly called "milky caps." That's because the tissues of these fungi exude a variously colored milk, or latex, when bruised. With time, the color of the latex may change. How lovely it is to discover one of these mushrooms in the forest, and to find that when it is cut, vivid red, white, blue, or orange juice oozes out.
There are many kinds of Lactarius. Most are short stemmed, with centrally depressed caps. Three are commonly eaten. L. deliciosus ("delicious milky cap") and L. rubrilacteus ("bleeding milky cap") can be used interchangeably or together in recipes. These two mushrooms are stout and robust, similar in appearance, and occasionally mistaken for one another. Their flesh is somewhat granular and chalky in consistency. L. deliciosus has a cap decorated with concentrically arranged bands colored in differing shades of orange and green. It releases orange-colored latex. L. rubrilacteus is zoned with red-brown and orange pigments, and produces red latex.
L. fragilis, the "candy cap," represents a group of closely related species. They are small red-brown mushrooms with watery latex and a fragrant odor identified variously as maple syrup or curry. This becomes more intense when dried. They are found in many habitats, usually late in the mushroom season.
In the eastern United States a stunning blue form, L. indigo, is found. It has a pleasant and unusual flavor.
Cleaning: Brush or wipe clean. These mushrooms can be wormy, especially the stems, so check the interiors carefully.
Cooking: Milky caps require a long period of slow cooking. The Russian people like to grill the caps whole by brushing them with oil and seasoning them with salt and pepper. They are best used in conjunction with other foods, as in casseroles. Try making a Lactarius loaf with bread crumbs, eggs, herbs, onions, and cheese. Old-timers toss fresh or dried candy caps into soups and stews for flavor or incorporate them into a sweet sauce or pudding to use as a dessert.
Preserving: Sauté L. deliciosus and L. rubrilacteus in butter and store in the freezer. They can be put up in a favorite pickling mixture and kept in the refrigerator for 1 week. Be sure to parboil them first.
L. fragilis is best dried whole or powdered. It has a smoother texture than the other edible Lactarius mushrooms and maintains its flavor for years.