ExCEPtional! – The Penny Bun, Cep or Porcini mushroom

The Bolete genus (and those closely related) are some of the largest and most exciting mushrooms to be found out there. From a culinary point of view there are several that are more than worth the their place in the kitchen, but there is one in particular that stands out as ‘best of the rest’.

Boletus edulisSo let’s get it’s name sorted out. Most people will definitely recognise common/local names, a couple of which are not English in origin. Our common tongue has described this as the ‘Penny Bun’ for obvious reasons (although probably not to todays generation), many also know it as the Cep (French) but then most cooks and chefs will often know it from it’s Italian translation as the ‘Porcini mushroom’. But at the end of the day, science has kept things in order, strictly labeling it as Boletus edulis – the latin name ‘edulis’ simply meaning ‘edible’. Very apt, as usual.

Excluding Truffles, the Cep (as I’ll call it from now on) is one of the most highly prized edible finds, especially in mainland Europe. Some foragers only have this one mushroom on their list, such is their passion for it.

It is a very distinctive looking mushroom with it’s stout, chunky stem and small ‘out of proportion’ cap (common to younger examples – shown opposite). They can sometimes pop up in abundance or smaller groups, but are often solitary near/under broad-leaved and coniferous trees.

The picking season can be as early as June or July, but often show up from August to September. With this year’s season being mostly dry, only November has been reliable in dishing out the goods – for me this year anyway!

Young specimens are usually favoured over older specimens (often maggot-ridden) and will be cooked or pickled whole, or even dried for later consumption. They freeze extremely well too.

The pores in older ‘middle-aged’ specimens change from white to a dull yellow-green colour (as the spores are olive green/brown). The tubes are usually removed and the cap is thinly sliced along with the stem (peeled first) to add to the pan. Overall, it’s good to know there are many ways to store, cook and eat this mushroom. I’m no top chef , but there’s lots of ideas out there. A great selection of recipes with the cep mushroom can be found on the BBC website here.

There are a couple of edible ‘look-a-likes’ often confused with the Cep, such as the The Dark Cep (Boletus aereus) and maybe the Bay Bolete (Boletus badius). But beware the Bitter Bolete (Tylopilus felleus) with a dark network on its stem. Although not posionous, it’s a recipe for disaster when served up at dinner time. As the name suggests it has a very bitter, unpleasant taste.

So a useful feature to note in identifying the Cep is looking for the raised ‘white’ network/pattern on the stem (reticulation) as shown in the picture below. None of those mentioned above share this feature.

Good hunting…

The Cep

What a difference! A large middle aged/mature specimen next to a younger example. Notice the ‘white’ raised network on the stem and how the pores age ‘yellow/green’ compared to the paler white colour of younger ones.

Boletus edulis Mushroom UK

A young, perfectly from Cep mushroom discovered in Leicestershire UK – open grassland near woodland.

QUICK ID TABLE: CEP Boletus edulis

CAP / FLESH

8-25cm across. Brown. White line at margin of cap. Smooth and dry becoming greasy. Viscid in wet weather. Flesh is white (flushed dingy yellow or vinaceous in the cap).

STEM

3-23cm x 3-8cm. Often swollen at base. Pale with white network covering the stem.

PORES / TUBES / SPORE PRINT

Pores are small and round, initially white; ageing yellow, then greenish-yellow. Tubes are white, becoming grey-yellow.
Spore Print: Olivaceous walnut-brown (see how to take a spore print here).

HABITAT / SEASON

In coniferous, broadleaved or mixed woods. Summer – late autumn.

EDIBILITY

Edible. Excellent.

The Genus BOLETUS (the Boletes): Characteristics to look out for:

• Have pores (open ends of tubes) on the underside instead of gills. Easily separated from the cap.
• Most have dry caps (viscid when wet – but not glutinous like Suillus genus).
• Most have reticulation on the stem; a fine network covering parts or all of the stem. Make note of the colour.
• When cut or bruised take note of any changes in colour to the flesh or pores.

24 replies
  1. J C Harris
    J C Harris says:

    Hi Drydo

    Unfortunately not, but further north on Cademan Heath near Whitwick (off M1 J23). But Blaby is very consistent with Shaggy Inkcaps and Field Mushrooms (in local pasture land) and also has it’s good share of Wood Blewits!

    Reply
  2. Neil Curtis
    Neil Curtis says:

    Thanks John. I thought I’d found 2 in the woods today – Oak/Birch/Pine….but I think that they are Bay Boletes upon studying – slight bluey bruising on pores and upon cutting them open, also thinner stemmed. They were a beautiful deep brown colour with yellowy pores. They are drying now! Hope that I am correct as I do intend on eating them…Don’t think there’s anything poisonous that they could be is there? Also found a glut of Oakbug Milkcaps – white milk and oily smell, and a huge Blusher.
    How late into autumn do Ceps grow?

    Reply
    • J C Harris
      J C Harris says:

      Great news Neil. It’s a great feeling isn’t it?
      I tried the links but they were ‘temporarily unavailable’ – not sure what that meant.
      Anyway, I hope you find some more real soon.
      All the best
      John

      Reply
  3. roger mather
    roger mather says:

    One of my son’s friends went foraging on Bodmin Moor today . He bought back four large bags of cops . Must say I’m looking forward to trying them in an omelette tomorrow for breakfast.

    Reply
      • Roger Mather
        Roger Mather says:

        Hi J.C. Please acCEPt my apologies for the incorrect spelling. Had my omelette this morning. First time I’ve tried this fungi,and really enjoyed them.Giant puffball is still my favourite. Regards Rog.

        Reply
      • John Holland
        John Holland says:

        Hello-
        I’m reading as lot at the moment about people gathering bagfulls of fungi- yet here in west Kent, there really is virtually nothing so far (Oct 27th).
        Apparently the New Forest is deep with mushrooms- I’ve been out every weekend for the last month, and I’ve never known so few fungi at this time of year. I don’t understand it, as the weather here has not been so different from Hampshire.
        Have you heard of big differences around the country? It seems very odd to me, as the weather has been mild and pretty damp- good weather normally for fungi.
        John

        Reply
        • J C Harris
          J C Harris says:

          Hi John
          I know where you’re coming from. Generally over the UK (well, mainly England) we’ve had a slight Indian Summer and it is still very mild for October. Only last week while out in local ancient woodland I saw next to nothing, which struck me as odd also. And I only have to look at my website visitor stats to see it is quite a bit lower this year in October. This happens now and again and there are too many variables sometimes to know the reason why. So you’re not alone there. However, things have picked up this weekend. There are still many dry areas with crispy leaves and a few damp areas here and there. Those damp areas are delivering the goods whether the species are edible or not. I have a feeling the start of November will deliver better conditions and nice edible crops will appear. But it’s best not to ‘over forage’, so there’s more for next year.
          All the best
          John

          Reply
  4. Tom Roe
    Tom Roe says:

    Boletus are the only ones with tubes right? I found a rather impressive cluster of Boletes rather large white/grey cap and yellow tubes. I will take a photo and try post on here. They have grown together in a kind of dome shape about a foot in diameter. I want to eat cos seems a shame to waste. Recently had a bit of a scare with some other mushrooms (more paranoia i think tho) but trying to get back into it. If there are no others that could be deadly that are similar to Bolete, then i think they’re going in the pan…

    Reply
    • J C Harris
      J C Harris says:

      Hi Tom
      Yes Boltus and related species (Suillus and Leccinum etc) all have the tubes and pores. There are not many poisonous species in this genus, although the notorious Satans Bolete (Rubroboletus satanas) is one of the exceptions. However, I’d check over thoroughly anyway, to see if you can identify what you have – as there are about 80 different species in Britain alone – and I’m not fully versed in all of them!

      Reply
  5. We
    We says:

    Please-for the first time in 16 years, we have ceps here and not enough facilities to dry them out first!
    Can I bag and & freeze them immediately please?

    Reply
  6. MartinN
    MartinN says:

    Hello, a q for the community if anyone is on – help needed identifying a spitting image for a penny bun found on S Downs today – but it’s not a penny bun :( In fact it turns out to have white gills, and behaves oddly. Am really unsure it is even an amanita. Images and writeup are I hope here:
    http://imgur.com/a/q8tTb
    Any positive ID from someone with more experience than me would be great :) Many thanks

    Reply
    • J C Harris
      J C Harris says:

      Hi Martin
      That’s a tough one. Were there any full open mature specimens about? I’d have to see some others – sorry, but it has characteristics of several species but not matching any I can find or think of. Hope you find the answer.
      Cheers
      John

      Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] semilanceata is a Class A drug). But if you do find any Fly Agarics, be sure to look out for any Ceps (Boletus edulis) hanging around, as they sometimes grow nearby […]

  2. […] some species of fungi grow nearby others. For example, Ceps (Boletus edulis) have an association with the Miller mushroom (Clitopilus prunulus), and it’s always good to […]

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