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Foraging saffron milk caps in BC

sm lactarius by chef alvarez

I was out with Chef Jefferson Alvarez this week to hunt for unique, edible mushrooms.  We were actually foraging for bears tooth, but we found these beauties instead by the basket load growing in rings on the mossy forest floor.  The saffron milk cap or Lactarius deliciosus is enjoyed fried by Catalan chefs (called rovelló) and salted by the Russians.  It’s a native to Europe that was introduced to North America and has 3 sub-species in BC that are all edible.  It’s a great one for amateur mushroom hunters, because nothing deadly looks like it.

sm lactarius by chef alvarezWhere do I look when foraging Saffron milk caps?

  • North shore mountains or outside Manning park

When do I look?

  • Fall Sept to Nov
  • Pick them when they are young, firm and orange.  When they look green before you’ve even picked them, it just means they’re old and not edible at that point.

Main Characteristics?

This is an easy one…  Lactarius family mushrooms all have a milk or latex that comes out when you break them, then you just have to determine the specific species.

  • Banded orange cap
  • Bright orange milk that exudes from any cuts or tears in the mushroom
  • Staining green where cut over time
  • Vase or cup shaped cap
  • Fruits under conifers, especially pine


Clean off the mushrooms under the tap (slice them into a bowl of water, let sit for 1/2 hour if the mushrooms taste a bit bitter).  Then, sautee them with a little olive oil, salt and garlic.  I recommend you try them this way first, so you can taste the flavour simply before adding saffron and tomatoes like the Spanish do.

Look alikes?

  • Lactarius rubrilacteus, also edible, red latex (milk), this one fruits with Douglas Fir trees
  • New mushroomers should avoid Lactarius family mushrooms that have a white latex (milk) generally
Picture by Chef Jefferson Alvarez

Picture by Chef Jefferson Alvarez