I love sharing audio files from my archive of interviews with mycophiles from around the nation, but this mushroom hunting story takes the cake. Damien Pack was one of the coolest people I interviewed for my radio project, Crazy About Mushrooms: Conversations With Fungus Fanatics, and this mushroom hunting story is probably (IMO) the funniest tale I heard on my journey to meet the mushroom folk.
So grab some porcini-powdered snacks, kick your feet up on your mushroom ottoman, and take a couple minutes to listen to the mushroom hunting story that encapsulates a very real issue: competition for king boletes.
Yours In Fungal Fancy,
Damien’s Mushroom Hunting Story – Competition for Porcini
For those who aren’t aware, the king bolete or porcini, Boletus edulis, is one of the most sought-after mushrooms that grows in the wilds of North America. These occasionally hubcap-sized mushrooms are common on the west coast, particularly in on the Pacific coastline of Oregon and Washington.
I’ve written about porcini before, so if you want to know a little more about why these mushrooms are so coveted by foodies and mushroom hunters, check out my previous posts on porcini species and culinary uses. Also, if you’re curious about a relative of Boletus edulis that I rate as one of the most fun mushrooms to hunt in the wild, check out my post about the spring king bolete, Boletus rex veris.
So, without further ado, here’s the audio of a mushroom hunting story Damien Pack told me about a wild mushroom foray on the coast of Washington many years ago. Damien is a diehard mycophile who worked as the growing room manager at Paul Stamets’ farm (Fungi Perfecti), and whose mushroom cultivation and wild mushroom hunting experience runs deep. He’s also a splendid fellow with a flare for spinning good yarns!
Why Do Porcini Drive Mushroom Hunters Mad?
There are a lot of wild mushrooms that inspire a great deal of myco-coveteous behavior from both novice and seasoned mushroom hunters, from the sneaky yellow morel species that hide in poplar groves and creek bottoms east of the Rocky Mountains to the large and delicious chicken of the woods (in North Carolina, Laetiporus sulfureus and Laetiporus cincinnatus).
However, Boletus edulis is a special case, even in the context of these highly popular wild mushrooms; it’s so very large, delicious, and easy to identify that it’s sought out by mushroomers of all pedigrees. Add to this the rich culinary history of this mushroom in Europe, and you have a recipe for some extremely competitive behavior around Boletus edulis. For some immigrant families, hunting for wild porcini is a tradition with deep, multi-generational roots.
By way of example, I will invoke the great David Arora, who described two species of boletovores– clandestine bolete-eaters and gregarious bolete-eaters. I cannot do these “species descriptions” justice, but in essence, Arora split the bolete-lovers of North America into two sorts: those who are brazen about their bolete hunting, around whom one is likely to find an abundance of trimmed stem butts and lots of loud pontification about excellent bolete hauls of times past, and those who are laconic, sneaky, and unlikely to show off their edulis-hunting prowess to any but the closest of intimates.
If you’ve not read this particular passage in Arora’s seminal book Mushrooms Demystified, I can only say that if you wish to grok the culture that surrounds Boletus edulis, you should drop everything and go hunt out these two species descriptions. It’s sure to enlighten you and give you a hearty chuckle in the bargain.