One thing is for certain, when we see the appearance of the pine mushroom, here in the north anyway, we know autumn is in us. And yet, as abundant as the pine mushroom is, it has little place in the Western canon of cuisine. It's odour with not fill a room like the white truffles I once experienced at Arpege in Paris, but it will subtly draw colourful scents around those close by.
Although abundant in the Northern countries, there is very little mention of it in lower Europe (traditional Europe), taking a non existent place after truffles, chanterelles, porcinis etc...It is in asia where the mushroom is almost worshiped for its intense flavour, and well, with the Japanese in particular for its supposed sexual enhancing properties. Wikipedia will not mention this but the matsutake has, as far as ordinary parlance goes, a grading system which ranges from 1 to 5. Number 1, small, whose head...well let us just say it, it looks like a penis and that is why it is revered by some Japanese-although it is the least flavourful. Go figure. Numbers 3 to 5 are indeed larger looking more like a generic mushroom (portobello etc...) but whose perfume is incredibly strong, and I must admit intoxicating, somewhere between pine and the sweat of an incredible lover, if you know what I mean. These mushrooms in Japan can sometimes fetch up to 2000 dollars a kilo, but here in Quebec they go from 35$ to 100$ depending on the abundance and of course who you are buying from.
Although many people are still hooked on the Euro centered worship of morels, girolles etc where recipes abound in the bibles of Ducasse and the Larousse (where there is no mention of the pine mushroom)...I cannot help to admit that after having cooked over 50 varieties from Quebec this year, that the king of mushrooms is the matsutake, Quebec's truffle of sorts, the North's gift to the great cannon of mushrooms.