Coprinus comatus Mushrooms – The Shaggy Mane

Guest blogger:  Tohby of Drummondville, Province of Québec, Canada

Coprinus comatus, otherwise known as, The Shaggy Mane, Shaggy Inkcap, also occasionally known as the Lawyers Wig, is a distinctive and easy to recognize mushroom. It’s size, shape, and tendency to grow in tight groups make it easy to sport even from considerable distance. Shaggy Mane has an elongated bullet shaped, shaggy cap, with brownish upturned scales and a straight fairly smooth stem.

Cap
Shaggy, scaly, whitish, 1-2 inches wide, 2-6 inches tall becoming inky and gooey as it expands eventually leaving just the stem

Gills (lamellae)
White, close, free gills that eventually becoming black and inky

Stem
Fibrous, hollow, straight white to tannish stem with partial veil on the lower to middle area

Flesh
White, quite soft and easily broken

Spores
Black spores

When and where to find them (ecology)
They grow in summer and fall in grass, wood chips, rocky, or hard packed soil often appearing shortly after a soaking rain. They may grow singly or scattered but often in large, tightly packed groups. Sometimes they are found in huge quantities presenting quite a dilemma since they require almost immediate preparation.

Widespread and common in Britain and Ireland, Coprinus comatus is also found throughout mainland Europe, from Scandinavia down to the southern edge of the Iberian Peninsula and the shores of the Mediterranean. It also occurs in North America.

Preparation
They should be collected at an early stage before becoming inky just a few hours after picking. The refrigerator will slow down this process but not for long. They have a pleasant, subtle flavor that is quite mild and mixing them with other food may cause the flavor to be lost. They make good sautéed served as a stand alone dish.  Grilling and pickling may be a possibility. They go well with eggs, cheese, white sauces, milder vegetables, chicken, fish, etc.

They can be used for dyeing wool, some fabrics, or paper and will yield a gray-green color when ammonia is used as a mordant and a bayberry color when cooked in an iron pot.

You may have luck with making a slurry for propagating shaggys in your lawn by placing your older inky caps in water for a day or so to capture the spores in solution then pouring the water on your lawn.

Shaggy Mane - Perfect stage for harvesting. [Picture retrieved from http://www.first-nature.com/fungi/coprinus-comatus.php.]
Shaggy Mane – Perfect stage for harvesting.

Shaggy Mane at a perfect stage for harvest.

Shaggy Mane becoming inky. [Picture taken by author.]
Shaggy Mane becoming inky.

Shaggy Mane becoming inky.

These mushrooms were once introduced to me by a lady friend that happened to be visiting us. As we were walking in the lawn that day, she very excitedly showed me these white egg-shaped objects that I had never noticed before. We picked and prepared them and we ate them along with the meal we had cooked that evening. Since then, at this time of the year, we wait for their arrival and it is always with renewed excitement that we rediscover them. They are like a gift to us since they cannot be found at the supermarket or specialized fine food boutiques. The taste of the short-lived fungi is unique and always as pleasant as the first time we taste them. A true present given by the Goddess prior to the long Quebec winter.

A true present given by the Goddess. [Picture captured by author.]
A true present given by the Goddess. [Picture captured by author.]
Sources:

Muschroom-Collecting.com
A New England and Eastern Canada Edible and Medicinal Mushroom Resource

First Nature
Your Wildlife Window on the Web
http://www.first-nature.com/fungi/coprinus-comatus.php

Images

Shaggy Mane perfect for eating  picture retrieved from http://www.first-nature.com/fungi/coprinus-comatus.php.

Shaggy Mane becoming inky picture retrieved from http://www.first-nature.com/fungi/coprinus-comatus.php.

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