(L. ex Fr.) S.F.Gray (1821)
|gills on hymenium|
|cap is depressed|
|hymenium is decurrent|
|stipe is bare|
|spore print is tan|
|ecology is mycorrhizal|
Lactarius deliciosus, commonly known as the saffron milk cap and red pine mushroom, is one of the best known members of the large milk-cap genus Lactarius in the order Russulales. It is found in Europe and has been accidentally introduced to other countries under conifers and can be found growing in pine plantations. A fresco in the Roman town of Herculaneum appears to depict Lactarius deliciosus and is one of the earliest pieces of art to illustrate a fungus.
This was known to Linnaeus who officially described it in Volume Two of his Species Plantarum in 1753, giving it the name Agaricus deliciosus, the specific epithet deriving from Latin deliciosus meaning "tasty". The Swedish taxonomist allegedly gave the species its epithet after smelling it and presuming it tasted as good as a Mediterranean milk cap highly regarded for its flavor. Dutch mycologist Christian Hendrik Persoon added the varietal epithet lactifluus in 1801, before English mycologist Samuel Frederick Gray placed it in its current genus Lactarius in 1821 in his The Natural Arrangement of British Plants.
It is commonly known as saffron milk-cap, red pine mushroom, or simply pine mushroom in English. Its Catalan name is rovelló (pl. rovellons) while its Castilian name varies (níscalo, mízcalo...). An alternate North American name is orange latex milky. Both this and Lactarius deterrimus are known as Çam melkisi or Çintar in Turkey.
In the Girona area, this type of mushroom is called a pinatell (in Catalan) because it is collected near wild pine trees; they are typically harvested in October following the late August rain. Due to its scarcity it commands high prices.
It is known as Rascovi in Romania and it can be found in the northern area in autumn season.
Lactarius deliciosus has a carrot orange cap which is convex to vase shaped, inrolled when young, 4 to 14 cm (1.5–7 in) across, often with darker orange lines in the form of concentric circles. The cap is sticky and viscid when wet, but is often dry. It has crowded decurrent gills and a squat orange stipe which is often hollow, 3 to 8 cm (1–3 in) long and 1 to 2 cm (0.4–0.8 in) thick. This mushroom stains a deep green color when handled. When fresh, the mushroom exudes an orange-red latex or "milk" that does not change color.
In North America, this mushroom is often confused with Lactarius rubrilacteus which stains blue, exudes a red latex, and is also edible.
Distribution and habitat
Lactarius deliciosus grows under the acidic soil of conifers and forms a mycorrhizal relationship with its host tree. It is native to the southern Pyrenees where it grows under Mediterranean pines all over Spain. Both this fungus and L. deterrimus are collected and sold in the İzmir Province of southwestern Turkey, and the Antalya Province of the south coast. Mycologists Jorinde Nuytinck, Annemieke Verbeken, and Steve Miller have concluded after analysing DNA from collections around the world that L. deliciosus is a distinct European species that differs genetically, morphologically, and ecologically from populations in North America or Central America.
It has been introduced to Chile, Australia and New Zealand, where it grows in Pinus radiata plantations. Popular places for collecting this mushroom, especially among the Polish community, are around Macedon in Victoria, and in the Oberon area in New South Wales, Australia, where they can grow to the size of a dinner plate. Many people of Italian, Polish, Ukrainian and other eastern European ancestry in the states of Victoria and New South Wales, Australia travel to collect these mushrooms after autumn rainfall around Easter time. In Cyprus it is found in the pine forests where many people "hunt" them with vigour. It is one of the local delicacies.
Lactarius deliciosus is very popular in Russian cuisine. Siberian pine forests are a habitat of this type of mushrooms. The mushrooms are being collected in August to early October. As methods of food conservation, they are traditionally salted and pickled. Many people prefer them fried.
Lactarius deliciosus is a widely collected mushroom in the Southern Pyrenees and Majorca and used in Spanish cuisine. One recipe recommends they should be lightly washed, fried whole cap down in olive oil with a small amount of garlic and served drenched in raw olive oil and parsley. The same recipe advised that butter should never be used when cooking this mushroom.
They are also collected in Poland, where they are traditionally served fried in butter, with cream, or marinated.
In India, the fungus is one of the ten most widely consumed mushrooms by ethnic tribes of Meghalaya. They are also well known in Cyprus, where they are usually cooked on charcoal and marinated with olive oil and lemon, or fried with onions with red wine.
In some older guides, the saffron milk cap is considered an excellent mushroom, having 'a crisp texture'. In fact, when naming the mushroom, the mycologist had mistaken the mushroom with Lactarius sanguifluus, which is an excellent, pleasantly crunchy mushroom. Today, most mycologists hold Lactarius sanguifluus in higher esteem than its pretender, Lactarius deliciosus.
When grown in liquid culture, the mycelium of Lactarius deliciosus produces a mixture of fatty acids and various compounds such as chroman-4-one, anofinic acid, 3-hydroxyacetylindole, ergosterol, and cyclic dipeptides.
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- Bessette AR, Bessette A, Harris DM. (2009). Milk Mushrooms of North America: A Field Guide to the Genus Lactarius. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press. pp. 177–78. ISBN 0-8156-3229-0.
- Hesler LR, Smith AH. (1979). North American Species of Lactarius. Michigan: The University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-08440-2.
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