I find and eat a lot of hawk’s wings mushrooms (Sarcodon imbricatus) in the Colorado high country, and they have already started flushing this year. I’ve eaten them marinated and grilled, dried and reconstituted and sauteed with sauerkraut like my Polish grandmother used to do with her dried mushroom assortments, and best yet in my dad’s creamy mushroom soup, with beef broth and hawks wings combining to create a rich, deep flavor.
Many people, however, experience hawk’s wings to be bitter and inedible. It seems likely, however, that not all hawk’s wings are created equal.
For one, you have to take a look at what trees they are fruiting under. Are they fruiting under lodgepole pines? Do they have a green stain at the base of the stalk? In that case, you might not be looking at Sarcodon imbricatus at all, but rather a related species.
Vera Stucky Evenson, author of Mushrooms of Colorado and the Southern Rocky Mountains (1997), told me last year that you have to be very careful to read the description and make sure you have the right species within the genus, and to steer clear of bitter Sarcodons. In her book she writes that members of the related Sarcodon scabrosus group (described by David Arora in Mushrooms Demystified, 1986, to be “unequivocally and indisputably inedible due to the awful taste”)—have “chestnut brown, less scaly caps; distinctive olive-black to dark bluish green coloration in the stalk bases; and a bitter taste.”
Evenson also notes that even if you successfully identify Sarcodon imbricatus, it “makes some people slightly ill,” so “only mild, young fruiting bodies should be eaten.”
I’ve never had the stomach upset, and I eat the mature mushrooms, but I was scared at first. I have only gathered them under spruce where S. imbricatus is supposed to grow, and never have the mushrooms I’ve eaten had a green stain at the base. There is definitely some confusion about this mushroom, and additional research that need to be undertaken to figure out what is going on with the Sarcodons stateside, never mind the ones in Europe.
I wrote a fun story, “Take Me Down to Sarcodon City,” including the above discussion and plenty of dumb jokes, in the August 2013 Wild Edible Notebook. Here is a free PDF download of the Sarcodon imbricatus story in its entirety.
If you like that, there are a few entire issues of the Wild Edible Notebook available for free download to email list subscribers; just scroll to the very bottom of this site and enter your name and email address to join the list and access the downloads. Then if you still like it after that, consider signing up for the monthly publication for just $2/issue! The first $2 allows you to access the latest issue plus 5 previous editions, then it’s $2/month for new ones after that. Hope you like it!
CAUTION: I have not given you enough information here to confirm an identification and eat a wild mushroom. Please consult multiple sources and/or expert opinion before eating a wild mushroom. There are steps to adhere to for your own safety, even after the positive ID, including cooking first, tasting in small quantities, and reserving a specimen to show the toxicologist in case of an adverse reaction. This is my disclaimer. Please be smart and safe. You are responsible for your actions. Thanks so much. -WFG