A New Mushroom to Forage

By , September 20, 2012

We took a prisoner on the peninsula the other day, and, after lengthy interrogation, we ate it. We now have a new mushroom to add to our foraging list: Agaricus Silvicola, or the woodland agaricus.

I’ve been keeping an eye on an unfamiliar large mushroom on the trail for a while, until it disappeared. Recently, more of that mushroom have sprouted in the same place. I’d taken photos of the first one, and began the process of identifying it in our mushroom books. When a second mushroom disappeared from the group, leaving behind clear indications of human harvest, I became more positive of a correct identification. Finally, I picked the most mature among those that remained, and took it home. I had enough confidence in my identification that I marched home with a mushroom sceptor in my hand, grandly flourishing it over the trail margins, hoping to scatter its spores. When I got home, I laid the cap face down on a white sheet of paper, and covered it with a glass bowl.

In addition to several key physical features, the identification lists included a description of the spore print, which I would reveal with this arrangement. I looked for chocolate brown spore, “dark chocolate, not milk chocolate.” This morning, looking under the cap, this is exactly what I saw.

agaricus spore print

The telltale spore print. This is about the size of a tea saucer (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

Even so, I spent another 15 minutes rechecking all the identifying characteristics, ticking off my evidence one last time. Finally, we sampled it, first raw (this is one of the few wild mushrooms around here that can be eaten raw) then sautéed. The fact that you’re reading this indicates that our efforts to identify the mushroom correctly were ultimately successful.

Woodland agaricus is of the same family as the mushroom commonly sold in grocery stores. The flavor is very similar. While we enjoy our more exotic mushrooms, it’s nice to have a comfortable old reliable flavor available for free. To ensure more of this, I intend to “plant” our spore print in a likely spot on the homestead to try to grow more.

Of course, one would be extremely foolish to use this post as a means of identifying mushrooms. The process above, plus conferring with an experienced gatherer of the mushroom in question (a step we somewhat rashly skipped in this instance) should be followed for any new mushroom. We had the advantage that the most likely “look-alike” for this mushroom, the deadly Destroying Angel, does not appear in our area.

Even so, we only tried this mushroom so soon because we’ve rarely found it here. We’ve not seen this mushroom in over six years of hunting mushrooms in the area. Other, more common mushrooms, have been approached far more cautiously. We have gypsy mushrooms around here. An avid collector showed them to me. I’ve read the keys and identified it for the past three years. We even took a spore print, which Aly analyzed under a microscope. Still, we have yet to sample it. With so many mushrooms around, including the “foolproof four” in great abundance, playing it safe is no hardship.

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