Common Names: Saffron milkcap or Delicious milkcap
Before I start on how to identify these mushrooms let me state that eating mushrooms you find in the wild can be and extremely dangerous thing to do if you don't know what you're doing. Certain fungi can kill you if you consume them and there is nothing the doctors can do to save your life (eg. eat the deathcap mushroom and you will die as a result). Several poisonous mushrooms look almost exactly like edible ones. An example of this is that the deathcap mushroom is often confused with oyster mushrooms which you can find on the supermarket shelf. If you want to pick and eat Saffron milkcaps or other edible mushrooms I suggest that you do a short course as I did. This information is meant as a rough guide only and as such I hold no responsibilty for any death or injury which may occur as a result of actions taken due to this blog entry.
A Lactarius deliciosus mushroom hiding in the pine needles.
Now that I've scared the pants off you lets start. Lactarius deliciosus mushrooms are introduced to Australia from Europe. They are a common mushroom in Europe and many people there pick them to eat. To be honest I think that the taste of these mushrooms doesn't differ dramatically from the taste of a regular field mushroom that you can buy from the supermarket. The fun for me is in the search for the mushrooms and I suppose they are also more visually appealing than button or field mushrooms because of their shape and orange colour. Because of the strange orange colour so far nobody I have offered these to have eaten them. I suppose I don't blame them as they look quite strange. I find that in Victoria they tend to grow in the colder parts of the state and are usually found around Autumn. I've never seen any during Summer.
IDENTIFICATION POINT #1 OF 4
MAKE SURE YOU ARE LOOKING UNDER THE CORRECT TREE
For Identification purposes one of the main points is that these mushrooms are only found under pine trees such as the one in the pictures below. They is because the mycelium that the mushrooms grow from only grows on the roots of pine trees (European trees). If you see anything you think is a Saffron milkcap that is growing where there are no pine trees then do not eat it as it could be poisonous.
Here's the pine tree which I have picked many a Saffron milkcap from over the years.
The next Two shots are closer views of the foliage of the above tree.
IDENTIFICATION POINT #2 OF 4
LOOK FOR SPOTS ON THE STEM OF THE MUSHROOM
The stem of a Lactarius deliciosus mushroom has spots on its stem as shown in the picture below. Therefore when you cut them from the ground make sure you cut some of the stem off along with the cap so you can more easily identify this feature.
There they are clear as day. Spots on the stem of a Saffron milkcap mushroom
IDENTIFICATION POINT #3 OF 4
LATEX SAP FROM THE STEM IS BRIGHT ORANGE
When you cut the stem of one of these mushrooms it will start bleeding latex after some time. This latex is bright orange. I mean its really orange as in almost fluorescent in its brilliance. The picture below doesn't really do this point justice as there is not much of the latex sap showing (I should have squeezed the stem or waited a bit longer before taking the picture). The latex will easily show on your hands or clothes if it comes into contact with them.
Not the best picture as not much latex is weeping but you can see some on the cut edge of the stem.
IDENTIFICATION POINT #4 OF 4
KNOW YOUR MUSHROOM GILLS
The gills of this mushroom are what are known as shortly decurrent (extending downwards) and bright orange in colour. They also turn green when bruised.
You can see here the decurrent gills of this Lactarius deliciosus. The gills are not damaged so there is no green bruising showing.