Slippery Jack (Suillus luteus)
Foraging Slippery Jack Mushrooms in Southeastern Australia
Identification: Of all the wild forageable mushrooms in southeast Australia, slippery jacks (Suillus luteus) may be the most reliably identified – and that is a very useful thing given that mushroom mistakes can be fatal.
The cap is brown and moist, shiny and sometimes even slimy. It always remains convex and generally quite rounded on the edges. A mature specimen will be around 5-10cm across – they can get a little bigger but will usually be partly decayed or eaten by then). The slimy skin of the cap can (and eventually should) be peeled off without too much difficulty, revealing a creamy or yellowish white meat beneath
The undersides have pores (not gills, as with most mushrooms) and are yellowish brown with an olive tinge as they age. These can also be quite easily removed with a finger to reveal the meat underneath – something I usually do but sometimes don’t bother with to no ill effect (for me).
The stem has a ring that is left over from the veil that connected the stipe (stalk) and the cap as it grew, although it is missing on the similarly edible Suillus granulatus.
They are mycorrhizally associated with pine trees (which means connected to and functionally a part of the tree’s root system), so they are always under pines.
Where: Under pine trees, always. You do get some on isolated pines or some in parks, gardens and farm windbreak pine plantings, but the big harvests come from the state forest radiata pine plantations.
When: April to June in southeast Australia, although some earlier ones may occur in late summer following a really big rain event. Some may also pop up later into winter. Rain really is the key, and there might be just a few really bountiful weeks following big rains in any year that are worth waiting on, especially if you are going to go a long way to forage.
How: There is a common protocol that mushrooms should be cut on the stipe (stem) at ground level. Mycologists (fungi scientists) are often quick to point out that there is no real benefit to the fungus in that, but it remains a useful practice to ensure you get as much mushroom as you can and bring less dirt into your foraging basket. Because they usually grow up through pine needles, there are often some stuck to the slimy cap. Give them a clean to keep them out of the rest of your haul if you are going to eat them without removing the pores or are putting them in the same basket as saffron milk caps.
Eating: Slippery jacks are rated a distant second to saffron milk caps on a pine forest haul around here, but this only applies if they are eaten fresh. A saffron goes from bright orange meatiness with a subtle but good flavour to a brown flavour-poor crumble when dried; whereas the slippery jack goes from unexciting sponge for other flavours to a complex earthy delight when dehydrated and then rebooted in boiling water. It is related to boletes / ceps / porcini and is basically best used the way that they are. I always peel the slimy cap off (best done before it starts to get dry) and usually peel off the layer of pores – both easily done with fingers with a paring knife handy just in case. Then they are sliced and dried in a dehydrator, the sun or a very low oven. They would keep, when fully dried, in a jar in a cupboard, but I freeze bags of them, just to be sure. They then get soaked in some boiling water (like porcini) and used where an earthy mushroom stock is welcome like risotto, soup or in pie gravy.