Botanical name : Lactarius deliciosus
Common names : Saffron Milk Cap, red pine mushroom, pine mushroom
Physical appearance : A funnel shaped, large, light orange mushroom with a short orange stem. The mushroom can vary between 3 and 10 cm in height and approximately 4 and 15 cm in width across the cap. The cap has a depression in its centre. The stem often features a covering of orange spots, which can help to identify it. Markedly, the Milk Cap has bright orange gills and produces orange "milk" when scratched or damaged. Upon contact with air, this "milk" turns green.
Edible parts : The fungi is edible in its entirety.
Best places to find : Most commonly to be found in pine woodlands but can grow near other coniferous trees. Has a preference for acidic soils.
Time of year : Usually harvested between September and November.
Interesting factoid : Consuming large quantities of the Milk Cap can colour your urine orange.
Recipe : This is a widely used mushroom, common to the Mediterranean and Europe so many recipes can be found. Simple recipes which make the most of the deep flavours are best. A very easy recipe : simply fry in olive oil mixed with lots of crushed garlic and fresh parsley or coriander.
Please Note! : There are two other mushrooms which look very similar to the Milk Cap and are therefore easy to confuse! Please be sure you know what you are picking. If you are not sure, please do not risk your health/ life and seek expert advice! The two to watch out for (that are very similar to the Milk Cap but poisonous) :
1) Lactarius helvus : Also commonly found in pine woodlands, this species is distinguished by a lack of bands on the yellow-brown cap, and its stem and cap are the same colour. Unlike the edible Saffron Milk Cap, the Lactarius helvus's milk is watery white and has a distinct smell of fenugreek. Highly poisonous!!!!
2) Woolly Milk Cap : Lactarius torminosus - Usually found amongst birch. The flesh and gills of this mushroom are flesh tone pink. The cap does feature rings but unlike the edible Saffron Milk Cap, the cap has a woolly appearance and produces a milk that is white. Highly poisonous!!!!!
Photos courtesy of Ericsteinert