Cep or Penny Bun Mushroom Look-Alikes
Updated: Sep 9
The Boletus family of mushrooms in the UK comprises a diverse group of fungi with distinctive features such as caps, pores instead of gills, and thick stems. Among the notable members is the highly prized cep or penny bun mushroom, renowned for its rich flavour and culinary value. Other species include the bay bolete, scarletina bolete, and Satan's bolete, each with unique characteristics and varying edibility that we'll discuss below.
This is not a definitive list of look alikes but some of the most common. So remember to always be cautious and never eat any wild foods without consulting a foraging, or in this case specifically a wild mushroom expert.
Again, it is important to exercise caution when foraging for cep mushrooms. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, accurate identification is crucial as there are look-alike species, such as the poisonous Satan's bolete, which can be mistaken for ceps. Consuming toxic mushrooms is dangerous.
Additionally, proper handling and preparation are important to avoid any adverse reactions or food poisoning. It is also essential to consider the preservation of cep populations and their habitats by practicing responsible foraging. This includes following local regulations, not depleting entire patches, and leaving some mushrooms to support future growth. Being mindful of the environment and seeking expert advice when needed further ensures a safe and enjoyable foraging experience.
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Are Ceps and Boletes the same?
The terms "ceps" and "boletes" are often used interchangeably, but there is a slight difference in their usage. Ceps typically refer to a specific species of mushroom known as Boletus edulis, which is highly regarded for its culinary value and is commonly found in Europe. Boletes, on the other hand, are a broader group of mushrooms belonging to the Boletaceae family, which includes several different species.
In essence, all ceps are boletes, but not all boletes are ceps. Cep mushrooms are a specific type of bolete with distinct characteristics, including a brown cap, sponge-like pore surface, and a thick stem. They are highly sought after for their rich flavour and firm texture.
So, while "cep" is a specific name for Boletus edulis, "bolete" is a more general term encompassing a wider range of mushroom species within the Boletaceae family.
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Penny Bun or Cep Look alikes
In the UK, there are a few mushrooms that can resemble ceps or porcini (Boletus edulis) but may not possess the same culinary qualities or may even be toxic. Here are just some of the common look-alikes to be aware of.
Edible Cep or Penny Bun Look Alikes
Bay Bolete (Imleria badia):
The bay bolete is often mistaken for ceps due to its similar appearance. The Bay Bolete (Imleria badia) is a mushroom with a reddish-brown or chestnut-colored cap, a porous underside that turns greenish-yellow with age, and a stout stem. It is generally considered edible but can have a slimy texture when cooked. It is found in woodlands, particularly near beech or oak trees, and is distributed in Europe, including various regions of the UK.
Dark Bolete (Boletus aereus):
The dark bolete is another mushroom that can resemble ceps. The Dark Bolete, also known as the Bronze Bolete, is a mushroom with a dark brown or bronze cap and a velvety texture. The pore surface starts white or yellow and turns olive or greenish-yellow with age.
It is found in various habitats and is considered a prized edible mushroom.. While it is edible and highly regarded in some cuisines, its flavour and texture are generally considered inferior to ceps.
Slippery Jack (Suillus luteus):
The slippery jack is a common mushroom that can resemble ceps. It has a slimy or sticky cap, a spongy pore surface, and a stout stem. Slippery Jacks prefer habitats with coniferous trees, such as pines and spruces, and form mycorrhizal associations with them. Slippery Jack mushrooms have a distinctive flavour that is often described as nutty and savoury. Some people also detect hints of pine or resin in their taste. While it is edible, it has a slimy texture and the taste is strong, so strong that some people find it less desirable.
Scarletina Bolete (Neoboletus luridiformis):
The Scarletina Bolete mushroom, Neoboletus luridiformis, is a visually striking species found across the UK and Europe. It features a vibrant red to scarlet cap, ranging in size from small to medium. The cap is initially convex, later flattening with a possibly depressed centre. Its surface is dry and smooth, often displaying a mottled or cracked pattern. The stem is stout, yellow to orange, with a reticulated texture.
Scarletina Bolete is considered edible, but caution and proper cooking are advised. Its flavour is described as mild, nutty, and earthy. Thoroughly cooking the mushroom is important as eaten raw, it is toxic. It retains its bright red color when cooked.
Note: Although classified as edible, they largely are. However, some people can be allergic or have adverse reactions to any food. Be sure to try new foods with caution. Totally avoid consuming wild food if you have medical conditions, are pregnant or are breastfeeding.
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Poisonous Cep or Penny Bun Look Alikes
Red-cracked Bolete (Xerocomellus chrysenteron):
The Red-cracked Bolete (Xerocomellus chrysenteron) is a mushroom with a reddish-brown cap that develops cracks as it ages. It has a yellow pore surface that turns greenish-yellow and may bruise blue or green. The stout stem often has a net-like pattern near the top and a bulbous base. It is found in woodlands, particularly near oak or beech trees, and is distributed in Europe, including certain regions of the UK.
Although it is not considered toxic, it can cause gastrointestinal upset in some individuals if consumed in large quantities or undercooked.
Satan's Bolete (Boletus satanas):
Satan's Bolete (Rubroboletus satanas) is a mushroom with a large, dark reddish-brown or blackish cap. The surface may be slightly velvety or scaly. It has a pore surface instead of gills, which starts yellow but quickly turns blue or green when bruised or cut.
The stem is usually thick, stout, and reddish-brown.
Consumption of Satan's bolete can cause severe gastrointestinal symptoms.
Sickener (Russula emetica):
While not a bolete, the sickener is a mushroom that can resemble young ceps in terms of colour and shape. The cap of Russula emetica varies in colour, ranging from bright red to orange-red. It is typically convex when young, becoming flatter with age. The cap surface is smooth and may appear slightly sticky when wet. The gills are white and fairly crowded. They are adnate, meaning they are attached to the stem. As the name suggests, this mushroom is toxic and can cause vomiting and gastrointestinal distress if ingested.
Panther Cap (Amanita pantherina):
Although it may not resemble ceps closely, it is important to mention the panther cap due to its toxicity and potential for confusion. The Panther Cap is a toxic mushroom species that can be identified by its light to dark brown cap, which may have remnants of a white or yellowish veil. Its gills are white and free, while the stem is white with a distinct ring or skirt-like structure and a cup-like volva at the base. This mushroom is highly toxic and should never be consumed.
It contains toxins that can cause severe gastrointestinal symptoms and, in some cases, can be fatal if ingested.
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Foraging for cep or penny mushrooms can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. However, it is crucial to exercise caution and be wary of their look-alike species. Accurate identification is essential to avoid the risk of consuming toxic mushrooms. By being knowledgeable about the distinguishing features of ceps and consulting reliable resources or experts when in doubt, you can ensure a safe and successful foraging adventure.
Prior to eating anything that you have found or foraged make sure that you have been advised by an experienced forager and mushroom hunter. THIS GUIDE IS NOT ENOUGH.
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