Coprinus comatus

AKA shaggy mane, lawyer’s wig etc…

Coprinus comatus

This is one of the most widely known fungi other than, perhaps, morels. The cylindrical white, shaggy caps are easily recognized. I have found them in late spring, all through the fall and into early winter. Look in both grassy and mulched areas for this choice edible. If you find only white stalks with pale rusty colored scales you are a day or so too late.

Coprinus species are also known as inky caps. They spread their spores by liquefying the gills and cap, insects then carry this “ink” on their feet. This is the only species of Coprinus I recommend for the table; however, others are edible with caution. C. atramentarius is reported as good, but contains a compound that reacts strongly with alcohol. The first antiabuse for alcoholism was developed from this mushroom, so if you eat this one don’t drink for a day or so before or 2 or more days after.

In our area shaggy manes are usually 1-5 inches tall. They can be scattered to numerous and are usually found in various stages of development. Choose only the ones that are pure white, the discoloration (pre-liquification) begins on the outer edge of the cap and progresses inward. Every mycologist that I’ve ever heard says to pick only as stated above, but (I’m not recommending this) I have trimmed the dark edges and consumed the rest without any ill effects. The first time I did this was while camping in Southwestern Montana. I found three specimens with dark cap edges that were about a foot tall and weighed 5-6 ounces each. I trimmed off the dark and sautéed the rest with an onion for a side dish with our rib eye steaks. The dinner was good enough to be a condemned man’s last meal.

If you find enough to preserve (as is often the case) I suggest either pressure canning/ pickling or finely chopped and sautéed in butter then frozen (duxelles). Drying is impossible as the caps begin to liquefy almost immediately.

If you don’t know this one, learn it now. It’s easy to identify and one of my favorite edibles.

Steve Peek
Field mycologist and long standing member of the Asheville Mushroom 

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