Monday, May 17, 2010
As I was walking through the neighborhood yesterday morning, I came across a lovely sight. I found a wild shaggy mane mushroom growing in a landscaped bed. I happen to know that this bed is free of pesticides, so I took the liberty of harvesting the mushroom. A few hundred feet up the road, I found another, larger specimen.
Shaggy manes are prized edible mushrooms that are found in all of the 48 contiguous states. They are also fairly easy to grow as well, but despite their ubiquitous nature, you’ll never find them at your local grocery store. Shaggy manes (Coprinus comatus) have a unique way of dispersing their spores. While most mushrooms open up and let the spores drop into the breeze, shaggy manes deliquesce. In other words, the entirety of the cap of the mushroom dissolves into a gooey, inky mess that is rich in spores. From the ripening (or picking) of the mushroom to completion, this whole process takes about 24 hours or less. They have NO shelf life. You must use them right away. Even freezing them won’t stop it.
One of the reasons shaggy manes are a favorite of mushroom hunters, other than the flavor, is the fact that they are easy to identify. They look like a goose egg on a stick. The surface of the mushroom comes up a little as well, giving them a slightly shaggy texture. While there are many similar looking mushrooms, none of them are poisonous and certainly none are toxic.
I have been trying to grow shaggy manes for years now, with several unsuccessful starts. I think that part of the problem is that the shaggy manes I get online are from the Pacific Northwest, which has a markedly different climate than I have here in northern Arizona. Finding native shaggy manes gives me hope that I can get them to grow here. Fortunately, when I harvested the shaggy manes, I also managed to get a sizable stem butt (the part with dirt on it) with each mushroom. I cut those off and planted them in my containers in the hope that they will leap off and grow into the soil, eventually giving me some shaggy manes of my own. As I mentioned previously, a stem butt is a vigorous lump of mycelial life force. Given the right conditions, such as soil that is rich in organic matter, it may begin growing again and spread, eventually producing more mushrooms. That’s the hope anyway.
As for the mushrooms, they were delicious sautéed in a little butter.
Disclaimer: Collecting and consuming wild mushrooms is risky and should never be attempted without first consulting an expert, and I am certainly not an expert. The risk of eating any wild mushroom rests with the individual and Mad Bioneer does not accept any responsibility for consequences that may arise from the action of anyone eating wild mushrooms.