This common wild mushroom is unlikely to ever be found fresh in stores- mainly because soon after picking, it starts to decompose, rapidly becoming an inedible pile of black inky goo. If cooked fresh however, it is a choice edible, and can be a nice addition to any meal.
The Shaggy Mane Mushroom (Coprinus Comatus)
Identifying a Shaggy Mane
Shaggy Mane’s pop out of the ground like little white bullets. As they grow, the cap and the stem elongate. Soon, the cap will start to peel giving the mushroom its “shaggy” appearance, while the stem will remain smooth. The flaky parts of the cap can be brownish, with the base of the cap turning black as the mushroom ages. Eventually, the cap breaks from the stem and starts to decompose into a black inky mess. These mushrooms are sometimes called Inky Cap’s for this reason, although there are several species in this family that share this characteristic. The cap is generally 1-2 inches wide and 3-6 inches tall. The stem will be hollow.
Finding Shaggy Manes
These mushrooms are very common in the fall, but can also fruit anytime spring or summer. From my experience, they are most likely to show up in September in Western Canada. They usually fruit in groups along trails and disturbed areas, or in exposed soils after a good hard rain. They are also quite commonly found in meadows and on lawns, especially grassy areas in parks and urban environments. Make sure the Shaggy Mane is a good size before you harvest it, having at least a 3 inch cap. This will help avoid a potential mistaken identification. Pick them too late, however, and they will be mushy and inky. They can sometimes fruit in huge numbers over several days or weeks, so keep your eyes peeled for a bountiful harvest.
Inky Caps and Alcohol
Shaggy Manes are in the Coprinus genus, which includes several other “Inky Caps.” Some of these Inky Caps contain the mycotoxin coprine which -when combined with alcohol- can cause nausea, vomiting, sweating, agitation and other unpleasant symptoms. The symptoms usually start within a half hour of alcohol consumption and can last from 12-24 hours, with the severity of the symptoms being relative to amount of alcohol consumed. Fortunately, coprine has not been found in Shaggy Mane’s (Coprinus Comatus), but it is generally suggested to avoid drinking alcohol when eating any of these mushrooms.
Enjoying Shaggy Manes
There are many recipes around for enjoying these mushrooms. The shaggy mane has a mild but distinct flavor. The younger fruits will be firm, and can be enjoyed by simply slicing them up and frying them in butter. They are also quite common as an addition in soups and stews. Shaggy Manes should not be eaten raw.
Good luck and Happy Hunting! Be sure to take a good guide book with you when mushroom hunting! Here are some trusted sources:
Spread the spores!