In all the hullabaloo last week of going crazy for dandelions and making my radio debut, I forgot to mention what happened to that birch bolete I pilfered from a neighbor’s yard. Well, I ate it for dinner. Linguini with Porcini Red Sauce, Dandelion Greens, and Dandy Bread. Along with the diced and sauteed birch bolete, I added some rehydrated king boletes (Boletus edulis) gathered last fall in Oregon’s Rogue River Canyon. Reading the label on the bag, with my notations of place and date, I was transported back to those open canyon slopes of madrone and black oak where the large, rusty caps of the kings were poking through the leaf-litter—a generous consolation after a so-so weekend of steelhead fishing. Eating foraged food has a way of doing that, of breathing life into the past. My friend Bradley would say “Good action!”
To be honest, the mushroom sauce was even better the next day for lunch, after its flavors had more time to open up. It’s remarkable what a couple boletes—what the Italians call porcini—can do to transform a simple pasta into something more noteworthy.
Birch boletes aren’t as prized as the kings—they don’t have the same depth of nutty earthiness or firm texture—but at this early date any bolete is welcome. In a couple months I’ll be bringing news about the kings.