Saffron Milk Caps (Lactarius deliciosus)

A pretty pair of Saffies!
A pretty pair of Saffies!

Saffron Milk Caps (Lactarius deliciosus), otherwise known as ‘Pine Mushrooms’ are a very common and fortunately, very distinctive edible mushroom in the Pine forests not far from here.

A nice size for harvest.
A nice size for harvest.

Saffron Milk Caps are one of the seemingly few things in nature which clearly show where their name comes from. ‘Saffron’ because of their colour, ‘milk’ because of the orange juice or milk that they bleed when cut. Or is that ‘saffron milk’?

Just the right size for cooking.
Just the right size for cooking. You can see the rings on the cap in this pic.

Their taxonomic name too is a dead give away anything that has ‘lact’ in it relates to milk, ‘deliciosus’ because, well…theyre delicious!

The orange 'milk' is a give away when identifying Saffies.
The orange ‘milk’ is a give away when identifying Saffies.
The hollow stem and orange milk. Distinct gills too.
The hollow stem and orange milk. Distinct gills too.
The stems vary in hollowness and are less hollow in young specimens.
The stems vary in how hollow they are from specimen to specimen and are less hollow in young specimens.
Thick, hollow stem, undivided gills and orange spots.
Thick, hollow stem and undivided gills. You can see the characteristic stippling (spots).
A great harvest!
A great harvest!
A clear view of the rings that help identify Saffies.
A clear view of the rings that help identify Saffies.
The rings may not be distinct, depending on how the mushroom has grown.
The rings may not be distinctly circular, depending on how the mushroom has grown.
They look decidedly scruffy and start to turn green as they get older.
They look decidedly scruffy and start to turn green as they get older.

Identifying Saffron Milk Caps –

If you’re under Pine trees and find something that you think could be a Saffron Milk Cap, look for these details –

  • Orange colour
  • Orange blotches on the stem (stippling)
  • Undivided gills that are easily damaged
  • Hollow stem up to about 5 cm long and 1 to 3 cm wide
  • Orange milk where cut, especially the stem
  • Rings on the cap – they may not be distinct circular lines but you can see them
  • Convex cap when young going to concave when mature
  • Cap up to 15 cm diameter (though you wouldn’t pick it that big).
  • They start to turn a blue/green as they get damaged age, especially the gills. They look scruffy and seem to be falling apart but are still quite edible.

If you find a mushroom under Pine trees that fits all of the above requirements, you’ve got yourself a Saffron Milk Cap!

Caution: Raw Saffron Milk Caps can have mild toxicity. Always cook them before eating as the cooking process destroys the toxin.

For reference, they’re listed on page 104 of ‘A field guide to Australian Fungi’ by Bruce Fuhrer.

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