Porcini mushrooms sold both fresh and dried, are prized in Italian and French cuisine. These popular mushrooms (also known as king bolete or cèpe in French) are cultivated in Europe, North America, and parts of Asia, and grow naturally in pine forests at the base of trees. Autumn is porcini season in central Europe, with much of the carefully picked harvest dried for later consumption or export. Fresh porcini are beloved by gourmet chefs and can be sautéed and eaten as a side dish or added to risottos and pasta, while the dried mushrooms add rich flavor to broths and stews.
What Are Porcini Mushrooms?
They are brown-capped mushrooms with thick, white stalks. The caps can range in size from an inch to nearly afoot, but most collected specimens are no more than a few inches. The caps have a convex shape when young, giving them the ideal appearance for mushrooms, and require no prep other than a quick clean. Because of their status in fine cuisine, their short season, and how difficult they are to cultivate, porcini mushrooms can be pricey.
What do Porcini Look Like
They have the quintessential shape of the average mushroom doodle. Like most species of mushrooms, or any species on earth for that matter, the babies are cuter and chubbier. They have a dome-shaped cap that flattens and widens out as it ages. The cap of mature species may eventually curl upwards. When young they are quite white and firm. They gain color (browns, tans, yellows) as they grow and they lose density. Soft, spongey, or hollow is not a good sign. When porcini is found in wet climates (or even dry climates after a good rain) the caps will shine and may feel a little sticky. The flesh (underside of the cap) also starts off firm, but as it matures you can clearly see that the pores are just a series of tightly packed tubes. The stem starts off short and thick and may grow to be long and lean or thick and club shaped. The stem color does not develop as intensely as the cap color.
How to Store Porcini Mushrooms
Store fresh, unwashed porcini mushrooms in a loose paper bag in the crisper of the fridge. They’ll keep for a few days, but don’t wait to cook these precious fungi. They’re best used right away. Dried porcini should be kept in an airtight container in a dark, cool (but not cold) place for up to six months.
Porcini mushrooms are high in protein, with more than 33 grams of protein per 100-gram serving1. They’re also very high in vitamin A (74 to 149 percent of recommended daily value) and vitamin C (185 percent). Porcini also supply important minerals—100 grams of mushrooms provide 17 percent of your daily recommended value of calcium and 167 percent of the DV of iron.