Thursday, 17 October 2013

Honey Fungus linguine

  I'd been unsure as to whether I should try Honey Fungus (Armillaria mellea) or not, as I've always been wary of its edibility.  In Food For Free, Richard Mabey says, 'Blanch before cooking, then fry slowly. They have a strong flavour and firm texture, and are best served in small quantities on the first tasting, as they can be quite rich for some people.'  In Mushrooms, by Roger Phillips, it states, 'Edible when cooked, but should only be eaten in small amounts, as some forms are know to cause stomach upsets.'  In The Complete Mushroom Book: The Quiet Hunt, Antonio Carluccio speaks very fondly of the Honey Fungus, saying, 'Sold in French and Italian markets...I am always very excited at the sight of a colony, still with closed caps, very tightly packed in bunches at the foot of trees or sometimes just shooting out the grass. When raw they have a strange smell, but once cooked they are delicious, and also lose any toxicity.'  Carluccio also suggests parboiling the Honey Fungus first and discarding the water.

After reading numerous accounts of Honey Fungus edibility, I have deduced this;

It is a species eaten frequently on the continent, but shouldn't be consumed raw and should always be parboiled (with the water thrown away) before using in cooking. Despite this, some forms can cause stomach upset, and so it should only be eaten in small amounts.

OK, so now we have that straight, on to the Honey Fungus and the recipe, which is from the Carluccio book mentioned above.

These were only two of about ten clusters of these mushrooms growing within a ten metre radius

The ring distinguishes the Honey Fungus from Armillaria tabescens, the aptly named Ringless Honey Fungus.  Beware of the poisonous Sulphur Tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare) - white gills distinguish Honey Fungus from the Sulhpur Tuft, whose gills are a dull sulphur-yellow to greenish, becoming blacker with age.

Young specimens often have the fibrillose scales on the cap, as seen here

Chop the tough bottom part of the stem off before cooking

After parboiling

Parsley, garlic and chilli 

From Antonio Carluccio's Complete Mushroom Book (serves four);


- 500g linguine
- 60g parmesan
- 800g fresh and tight Honey Fungus
- 8 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 fresh red chilli 
- 2 tbsp coarsely chopped parsley
- Handful of sun-blushed tomatoes

I must confess to changing the recipe in the book, but only slightly - we made sun-blushed tomatoes this year by semi-dehydrating tomatoes from the garden and storing in oil. As they were so delicious, I added them in to the sauce, and they were a really nice addition, I think the pasta would have been lacking something had they not been there.

Clean the Honey Fungus, and remove the toughest part of its stem. Boil for 3-4 minutes in slightly salted water, then drain well.  Cook the pasta in plenty of salted water for 6-7 minutes until al dente.  Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pan and add the garlic and chilli.  Before the garlic browns, add the mushrooms, parsley and sun-blushed tomatoes. Cook for a few minutes only.  Drain the pasta well, and mix it with the mushroom sauce.  Add the Parmesan and enjoy!

Although I enjoyed this dish, I was not overly taken with the Honey Fungus - I thought they were pretty bland and quite slimy, they did however stay reasonably firm, so perhaps they would be best used as a stewing mushroom.  

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