Candy Cap Mushrooms
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Candy Cap mushrooms are very small, only 1-2 centimeters in diameter, and are slender with flattened, round caps. The surface of the cap is slightly bumpy with a center divot and ranges in color from brown to burnt-orange with thin edges that may curl and upturn with age. Underneath the cap, pale orange gills line the underside and run down into the stem, and when sliced fresh, the caps produce a milky latex liquid. The brittle stipe or stem may be hollow or solid, tan to orange, and will have a snap-like quality when removed from the cap. When consumed, Candy Cap mushrooms are sweet in flavor and have a unique aroma that is similar to the scent of maple syrup, butterscotch, or brown sugar.
Fresh Candy Cap mushrooms are available from mid to late winter, while dried mushrooms are available year-round.
Candy Cap mushrooms is a general descriptor used to refer to three different Lactarius species with Lactarius rubidus being the most common. Candy Cap mushrooms are one of the only sweet mushroom varieties and are highly prized for their sugary fragrance and small size. Native to North America, Candy Cap mushrooms grow along roads, trails, and in organic materials such as moss and rotting wood. These tiny mushrooms are laborious to forage and fetch a high price in the commercial marketplace, but because of their unique flavoring, they are a favorite among chefs to incorporate into both sweet and savory dishes.
Candy Cap mushrooms contain B vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, and folate which contribute to overall brain health.
Candy Cap mushrooms are most commonly used in dried form and can be ground into a powder or rehydrated to create a sweet cooking liquid. They are popularly used in bread, cakes, custards, pancakes, waffles, and cookies. They can also be simmered in a simple syrup to create a sweet, petite garnish to pour over cakes and ice cream. In addition to sweet preparations, Candy Cap mushrooms can be used in savory preparations as a chutney or relish and compliment flavors of smoked meats such as pork and fish. Candy Cap mushrooms will keep for over a year when dried and stored in a sealed container. It is important to use caution when trying to identify wild mushrooms as many varieties can be harmful or fatal when ingested. Unless there is full certainty of a mushroom’s identification, it is not recommended to eat or touch it.
The abundance of Candy Cap mushrooms in the San Francisco area has led to its appearance on many local restaurant dessert menus and is favored for its maple-syrup like scent. Candy Cap mushrooms have been rumored to produce a powerful scent that can fill a room for over a year.
Candy Cap mushrooms are native to the Pacific Northwest and can be found growing along the West coast of the United States. The small mushrooms are often found growing beneath conifers like pine and hardwoods like oak, amidst the moss or on rotting wood. Today they can be found fresh at local markets in the Pacific Northwest or can be found in dried form via online specialty shops.
Recipes that include Candy Cap Mushrooms. One is easiest, three is harder.