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(2010) August Mushroom of the month is...

Lactarius volemus (a.k.a. The Bradley)

lactarius volemus Lactarius volemus - like other lactarius species the gills of this mushroom will milk if cut with a knife.

While this mushroom is not a personal favorite, too many guidebooks and too many other mushroom hunters regard this as a good to very good edible mushroom so I cannot ignore its appeal. I have tried eating Lactarius volemus five times. The first two I wondered why anyone would consider this mushroom anything but barely edible. The third time the mushroom was prepared by another mycophile and I had to admit that it was okay. The last two times I have cooked it myself and have considered it good. I think the differences were caused by cooking style. The Lactarius volemus lends itself to slow cooking methods like in casseroles or thick sauces. I have used it in Italian red sauces. The fishy odor is lost in cooking.

The common name, the Bradley, is not used in Michigan but comes from the Southern regions of the U.S. so I will use the scientific name throughout this description of the mushroom.

milking lactarius volemus See the "milk" pooling on the gills? It tells you that this is a Lactarius species, other characteristics, including the close gills, tell you that it is a Lactarius volemus.

Lactarius volemus is a milky cap mushroom that gives off a copious white latex that stains the gills of the mushroom brown. It stains your hands and anything else it drips on also; leaving your hands rather sticky. The odor of the mushroom, particularly when mature and giving off a lot of latex, is rather fishy. One good feature is that this summer mushroom is usually free of maggots.

The cap of the Lactarius volemus is a orange brown color about two to four inches across with a slight inward central dimple. The white to pale cream gills are attached adnately and are rather crowded. The two to four inch long stem is the same color as the cap and ¼ to ¾ inches thick.

Lactarius volemusA Lactarius volemus stands alone ready for picking.

There are two very close look-alikes but both are also good edibles. Lactarius corrugis can be larger and darker brown than L. volemus. L. corrugis usually has a somewhat wrinkled cap especially at the margin. Its copious latex also stains the mushroom gills brown but is not sticky. L. corrugis specimens have a mild odor that is not at all fishy. Lactarius hygrophoroides has an orange-brown to orange colored cap, has wide spaced gills, and gives off a white latex that does not stain or have a fishy odor. In my opinion, L. hygrophoroides is the best of the bunch.