What You Should Know
Tricholoma caligatum is a mushroom of the agaric genus Tricholoma. It is a large species with a distinct sheathing ring on the stem, found in mycorrhizal association with various trees throughout the Mediterranean. It is sometimes referred to as the European Matsutake, though it is certainly gastronomically inferior to the true Matsutake (Tricholoma matsutake), a related species highly prized in Japan.
Found late summer into fall. Young specimens will have a partial veil that covers and protects the gills; this will fall away and leave a large, frill-edged ring on the stem. The stem is white above the ring and brown with scales below.
Edible but fruitbodies are often bitter, particularly when found under hardwoods. The bitterness seems to vary from one collection to another and is removed by parboiling. It is regularly consumed along the Mediterranean coast, and is highly valued in the island of Cyprus, where is considered a delicacy pickled and preserved in brine or vinegar.
Tricholoma caligatum was originally described in 1834 as "Agaricus caligatus" and was transferred to genus Tricholoma in 1914. Considerable controversy exists regarding the application of this name to Central European and North American collections, which likely represent different species
Other names: False Matsutake.
Tricholoma caligatum Mushroom Identification
Mycorrhizal with hardwoods, especially oaks; growing scattered or gregariously; fall; east of the Great Plains.
4–11 cm across; convex at first, becoming broadly convex or nearly flat; dry; streaked with brown over a whitish ground color; with age becoming somewhat fibrillose-scaly; the margin often adorned with fibrillose white veil material when young, and not becoming lined at maturity.
Narrowly attached to the stem, or notched; close or nearly crowded; short-gills frequent; white to creamy, becoming a little yellowish or brownish with old age; when young covered by a white, fibrillose partial veil.
4–8 cm long; 1–2 cm thick; more or less equal above a tapered base; white and very finely shaggy-zoned above the ring; sheathed with a streaked to scaly brown covering below the ring; dry; ring sturdy, flaring, with a white upper edge and a brownish lower edge.
White in the cap but often grayish to gray in the stem with age; not changing on exposure.
Odor and Taste
Odor not distinctive; taste bitter, or not distinctive.
Spores 5–8 x 4–5 µm; ellipsoid to broadly ellipsoid; smooth; inamyloid; hyaline in KOH, often with a semirefractive globular inclusion. Basidia 4-sterigmate. Hymenial cystidia not found. Lamellar trama parallel. Pileipellis a cutis (occasionally an ixocutis); elements 5–7.5 µm wide, smooth, yellow-brown to brownish or hyaline in KOH. Clamp connections not found.
False vs. True Matsutake
Tricholoma caligatum (false matsutake) grows symbiotically with deciduous trees, especially oak in Minnesota and Wisconsin where I hunt. Similar-looking mushrooms may grow with pine trees around the country.
True matsutake is symbiotic specifically with conifers (red pine and jack pine are where mine grow). I have never heard of them growing with oak or hardwoods, but I’ve heard they may in some areas.
False matsutake does not have a strong smell. True matsutake (in my opinion) has the most unique mushroom smell in the world: a spicy, funky aroma with hints of cinnamon. False matsutake smell like any other run-of-the-mill mushroom, and are mild and non-descript.
The matsutake I pick in Minnesota and Wisconsin is generally very large, heavy, and dense. I’ve picked some mushrooms that weigh over a pound each. False matsutake is smaller, lighter, and less dense.
Photo 1 - Author: dsmorris (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International)
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