The Saffron Milk Cap, formally known as Lactarius deliciosus , is a type of edible mushroom found widely distributed in Europe and parts of the United States. The mushroom is considered a delicacy in many European nations including Spain, where it is also known as Robellons, and Great Britain. The mushroom is not as popular in the United States, although some regions prize it due to its high population of European immigrants. Like other fungi in the Lactarius genus, the Saffron Milk Cap oozes a white, milky material when cut.
Usually found under conifers, the Saffron Milk Cap has a yellow to orange cap, depressed in the middle and rolling up along the edges. More mature mushrooms will form an almost funnel like shape, revealing the clearly defined gills and pale yellow stem. The mushrooms are the most flavorful at approximately three inches (eight centimeters) in diameter, and should be firm and evenly colored. When bruised, the mushroom will turn green.
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In Europe, the Saffron Milk Cap can be found fresh at markets in the early fall, when the mushroom is in season. Kept in a cool place wrapped in brown paper, these mushrooms can last up to one week. The mushrooms also take well to drying, and can be found dried in many specialty stores. The Saffron Milk Cap often commands a high price when wild harvested, because the mushrooms are elusive and have a limited season.
The Saffron Milk Cap has a nutty, woodsy flavor which is delicious both raw and cooked. The texture of the mushroom is faintly crunchy, and this quality will be retained even after cooking, which makes it a popular addition to a variety of dishes. Many European nations serve the mushrooms sauteed in butter, but these mushrooms can also be used in salads, on pasta dishes, and in stuffings and stews. The mushroom also pairs well with cream sauces and rich reductions, making it very popular in French cuisine.
Because the Saffron Milk Cap often grows on sandy soil, the mushrooms should be gently brushed and washed before cooking. Brushing can be carried out at any time, but the mushrooms should only be washed when they are going to be used immediately. If the mushrooms have been colonized by flies, they can be soaked in a salt water solution for thirty minutes to force the insect invaders out.