Depending on when you planted your Wine Cap bed you can harvest mushrooms anywhere from late May to late October (I'm talking Wisconsin here, if you're in the south you have a growing season that is essentially double, so you can harvest Wine Cap nearly all year). We are often asked "How do I know my Wine Caps are ready to harvest?" It turns out that Wine Cap can be harvested at nearly every stage of their growth, but with every stage you may want to cook them differently.
Stages of Harvest
Button Stage:Wine Caps have their most delicate flavor and texture at their button stage. When you harvest the buttons you can simply pull them out at the base and cut away the section of the stem that has dirt. These mushrooms are best cooked either whole, or sliced in half down the middle. They are crunchy and have a mild spring vegetable flavor. We enjoy them braised in wine with rosemary and sage, served with a dab of garlic-gorgonzola butter.
Mature Stage:If you have plans to grill, we suggest letting the Wine Cap grow until the cap has opened. You will want to harvest the mushrooms before they release their spores (you will be able to see a dark dust on the stem) as once the spores release they have been noted to have an almost metallic taste. With larger wine caps you will also want to consider removing the stems. The stems get tougher the older they get, so you can either test the stems for tenderness by just squeezing with your fingers, or not deal with it at all and cut the entire stem off. With the later choice you are left with a perfect saucer for brushing with oil, sprinkling with salt, and throwing on the grill.
Differences in Color
One other question that we often get is whether of not the coloration of the caps makes any difference. Often times Wine Cap can range anywhere from tan to dark burgundy but the color does not alter the taste of the mushroom. The difference occur due to sun exposure and wind exposure as well as age. Younger caps will often present that nice dark red and they will slowly turn tan as they sit out in the sun and age!