Also known as a penny bun or cep, the porcino mushroom is a type of fungus belonging to the genus, Boletus. It was first scientifically described by the French Botanist, Pierre Bulliard, in 1782. It is found all across the Northern Hemisphere, and does not occur naturally in the Southern Hemisphere. However, it was introduced into New Zealand and southern Africa.
This fungus grows in the coniferous and deciduous forests and tree plantations. It forms a symbiotic ectomycorrhizal relationship with living trees by enveloping sheaths of fungal tissue around the host trees’ roots. This fungus will produce fruit bodies that produce spores in the summer and autumn.
Porcino mushrooms are quite large and imposing. They have a brown cap that can reach 35 cm in diameter, and weigh 3 kg. They have a tube extending downards from the underside of its cap rather than having gills. When the tube or pores open at maturity, spores are released. The pores are white when they are young, but when they age, they turn greenish-yellow. Its stem is white or yellowish in colour, and can grow up to 25 cm tall and 10 cm thick.
Porcino mushrooms have multiple uses, mostly in the culinary world. This fungus is a prized ingredient and is regarded highly in many cuisines. It is particularly favoured in Italian, French, and German cuisine. The Roman Writers, Martial and Pliny the Elder, wrote about this mushroom in their works.
This mushroom is typically eaten in soups, pastas, or risottos. The flavour of the porcino mushroom is described as being nutty and meaty with a smooth and creamy texture. It has a distinct aroma that is similar to sourdough. Young and small porcini mushrooms are the most appreciated by gourmets. This is because larger porcini mushrooms harbor maggots and will therefore become slimy, soft, and less tasty as they age.
In order to get it from the ground, the fruit body will need to be held at the stipe and then twisted gently. Cutting the stipe will a knife will mean that the part left behind will rot and the mycelium will be destroyed. When preparing this mushroom, do not peel or wash it. The fruit bodies of this mushroom is highly perishable as it has a 90% water content. It also has a high level of enzyme activity.
Nutrition-wise, it is low in fat and carbohydrates. It is high in vitamins, minerals, protein, and dietary fibre. It is sold commercially, and is difficult to grow at home. They can be found fresh during the autumn across Europe. Elsewhere, it can be found in its dried form.