Our third example of the Russula is one which is also quite common in our woods, and which might in the extreme variation of its color be confounded with the last by a careless observer, as indeed both might be still further confounded with the poisonous member bearing the red tint, and which will be hereafter considered. The Russula alutacea (Pl. 12, figs. 2, 4, 6) is a delicious species. In general size and contour it resembles the foregoing. The color of the cap varies from bright-red to blood-red or even approaching the purplish red of the preceding species, lightening towards edge. But we have a clear distinction in the color of the gills, which are distinctly yellowish, pale ochre, or nankeen, in all stages of the mushroom, or even tawny in old specimens. They are, moreover, usually all of even length, being straight and continuous from stem to circumference of pileus, none of them forked, their juncture with the edge of the cap being clearly manifest from above by the thinness of the cuticle. The flesh is white, stem firm and solid, white and smooth, often tinted with pink or red. The flesh of the cap often appears pinkish upon peeling the cuticle from the edge. The taste resembles that of the previous species - sweet and nutty.

Botanical Characters Various-Gilled Russula. Russula Heterophylla

Growing in company with both of the above is frequently to be seen another species, which is somewhat protean in its accomplishments of color, but which in the character of its gills, as implied in its scientific name, gives us a ready means of identification - heterophylla - various-leaved (Pl. 12, figs, 1 and 5). In the previous examples of Russulae the gills have been commonly straight, continuous from stem to edge of cap, or more rarely forked and continuous in the bifurcation. In the present species we have both of these conditions, combined also with what are called dimidiate gills, or shorter leaflets, which reach, perhaps, only half-way from rim to stem, all crowded together and alternating. The color of the cap is very variable - occasionally pinkish-ash color or dull pinkish-gray inclining to green or olive or even red. Its surface is smoother than in the foregoing species, being almost polished, and the pellicle of the cap is usually noticeably thinner. Having found such a specimen, possessing also all the other attributes of shape, firmness of flesh, and dry brittleness of gills, if tasted and found sweet in flavor it may be eaten without the slightest fear, and like its congeners will be found a delicious morsel, whether nibbled raw, as the squirrels are so fond of doing, or served hot on toast as an entree, or otherwise prepared according to taste.

Various methods prevail in the culinary preparation of the Russula mushroom, many of which are suggested among the receipts in another chapter, but broiling is perhaps the most simple and generally satisfactory. Having thoroughly cleaned the top, or, if desired, peeled the cuticle, place the mushrooms on a gridiron over a hot fire, gills downward, for a few moments, sufficient to allow them to be heated through without scorching. Then reverse them and repeat the process, melting a small piece of butter in the gills and salting and peppering to taste; serve hot on toast or in the platter with roast beef or fowl. They are also delicious fried in the ordinary way, either with or without batter.

Botanical Characters

The Russula is particularly in favor among the fungus-eating insects, whose rapid development and voracity are consistently related to the ephemeral nature of their food. A Russula specimen showing barely a trace of insect life when gathered will sometimes prove literally honey-combed and totally unfit for food in the space of twenty-four hours. It is therefore well to cut each specimen in sections before venturing upon its preparation for the table, and to profit thereby according to our individual fastidiousness, as suggested on page 37.

Delicious Broiled Russula

An Infested Specimen

An Infested Specimen

While the above esculent species of Russulae are being familiarized by the tyro, he must now be put on guard against a certain dangerous species of the group, which is sure to claim his attention, being especially fond of the good company of its cousins, and likely to do some mischief through its frequent disguise.