Shaggy mane mushrooms are a type of edible mushroom that is commonly found in urban areas with hard-packed soil. The shaggy manes are quick to deteriorate once their caps begin to pop. For this reason, "Use if fresh" is a perfect motto if you want the shaggy mane mushrooms to satisfy your palate.
This post will help you better understand shaggy mane mushrooms and how these could be part of your house-based mushroom fruiting chamber.
How do you identify shaggy mane mushrooms?
For novice foragers, the shaggy mane mushrooms (Coprinus comatus) are a fantastic option since they are so simple to recognize. These mushrooms belong to the so-called "foolproof four," or the four mushrooms that are most easily recognized, together with morels, enormous puffballs, and chicken of the woods.
There are several distinctive qualities to the shaggy mane. Its crown typically has dimensions of 2.5 to 4.5 cm in width and 5 to 14 cm in height. Columnar at first and then bell-shaped. The surface is dry and white, with a brown central disc that divides into large, recurved scales in both white and brown. The stalks are typically 1 to 2 cm thick and 15 cm tall. The interior of the hollow stems has a thread of fibers that resembles string.
Due to the fact that they resemble the vintage wigs worn in old courtrooms, they are also called "lawyer's wigs." Because they only resemble one other species, which is likewise edible, there is less concern about harvesting the incorrect type of mushroom.
The scaly conical crown of shaggy mushrooms makes them easy to recognize.
If you are in the woods to comb for shaggy mane mushrooms, look for a white cone-shaped mushroom with scales that are turned up. Compared to the mushroom cap's light-colored background, the mane's scales or shaggy portions are frequently gray, tan, or reddish-brown.
The mushroom cap's flesh is thin and readily broken. When handling shaggy manes, it is recommended to exercise extreme caution because they can quickly fall apart, even when they are still fresh.
Shaggy mane mushrooms break apart significantly more quickly after even a modest amount of aging.
Due to their rapid decomposition, these mushrooms go by the moniker "inky cap." Due to the ink's characteristic natural food color, foods and recipes are colored with it. Deep black is the hue of the spores themselves.
The gills of saggy mane mushrooms start white but quickly turn black and inky.
Where do shaggy mane mushrooms grow?
These mushrooms thrive in disturbed areas, such as grass, wood chips, or hard-packed soil. They frequently appear shortly after heavy rain. They grow singly or in scattered groups but mostly in large, densely packed clusters. They can be found in lawns and pastures in both urban and rural areas. Many countries in the northern hemisphere have saggy manes. They can also be found in Australia and New Zealand.
Shaggy mane mushrooms grow well in nutrient-rich soils near trails, urban parks, and lawns. They can also be found deep in the woods, though it appears to be more common in populated areas. The mushrooms can grow alone, but it is most commonly found in large clusters. If you see one, you're likely to see many more.
Shaggy manes emerge directly from the ground in late summer and fall. They can be found in lawns, wood chip piles, rocky soil, and any other patch of compacted and abused land.
They're an excellent mushroom for urban foragers because they prefer compacted or degraded soils. They frequently appear in compacted soils along the edges of driveways immediately after rain.
What other mushrooms look like shaggy mane mushrooms?
As you decide to look for shaggy mane mushrooms outside of your home, it is helpful for you to know what other mushroom species look like the shaggy mane. Here are some mushrooms that are look-a-likes of the shaggy mane mushroom:
Magpie Fungus (Coprinopsis picacea)
This mushroom resembles a similar shape to the shaggy mane mushroom, especially when they are young. However, the magpie lacks the shaggy mane's unique scales. In addition, the magpie fungus' caps become dark grayish brown with white fibrils as it matures.
Common Ink Cap (Coprinus atramentarius)
Shaggy manes and the common ink cap, another edible member of the inky cap family, are sometimes confused. They both have elongated cylindrical tops when they first emerge from the soil and resemble one another greatly.
However, shaggy manes grow their recognizable shaggy-looking scales when the caps emerge. There are no scales on ordinary ink caps.
Desert Shaggy Mane Mushroom (Podaxi pistillaris)
Desert shaggy mane mushrooms are found in North America, Mexico, Australia, and India desert areas. It gets its name from its resemblance to shaggy mane mushrooms, but it belongs to a different mushroom family.
The desert shaggy mane mushroom is related to puffball mushrooms but lacks gills and a toadstool-like cap. This shaggy mane look-alike appears in the desert after heavy rain and initially resembles shaggy mane mushrooms in shape and color.
Green-Spored Lepiota (Chlorophyllum molybdites)
The green spored lepiota, also known as the false parasol or "vomiter" mushroom, is the last mushroom species that can be mistaken with the shaggy mane.
Eating these mushrooms, since they are toxic, causes severe gastrointestinal upset, with severe vomiting and diarrhea that sometimes necessitates hospitalization.
When fully mature, these mushrooms have nothing in common with shaggy mane mushrooms. They do not turn inky and have distinctive green spores. But when they are young, they depict specific characteristics of the shaggy mane, such the white with coarse brownish scales.
Can you eat shaggy mane mushrooms?
The shaggy mane mushroom is a gourmet edible popular among mushroom hunters. Young shaggy manes are white with a firm texture and should be harvested before their caps become bell-shaped and inky.
Before eating shaggy manes, always cook them. Although eating them raw will not poison you, some people have reported strange reactions.
This rule applies to the vast majority of wild gourmet mushrooms. Cooking breaks down the chitin cell walls of mushrooms, releasing nutrients and flavor and, in some cases, destroying toxins.
Can you eat shaggy mane mushrooms with alcohol?
Many believe alcohol should never be consumed with this shaggy mane mushroom. It is assumed that there are harmful interactions between alcohol and the substances found in the mushroom.
The common inky cap, also known as "Coprinus atramentaria," contains a substance called "coprine" that affects how our bodies metabolize alcohol, which is the source of the misunderstanding.
Coprine mixed with alcohol might result in quite severe symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, headache, weakness, and more. Coprine functions similarly to the prescription drug Antabuse, which treats severe alcoholism.
Even though other Coprinus species exhibit this trait, Shaggy Mane does lack the dreaded "coprine" chemical. However, if you intend to consume shaggy mane, it might be wise to play it cautious and abstain from alcohol.
Are shaggy mane mushrooms healthy?
The mushrooms under consideration provide us with several medical benefits, making them a nutritious addition to your diet.
Consumption of C. comatus has been linked to controlling blood glucose levels, as demonstrated by several studies. Mice's plasma glucose concentrations were lowered, and their intraperitoneal glucose tolerance was enhanced when they were given a meal that contained the powdered dried fruit bodies of shaggy mane mushrooms (one-third of their food intake, by weight). (Bailey et al., 1984)
Recently, it was shown that Coprinus comatus water extract contains powerful anticancer chemicals for breast cancer. These findings are significant because estrogen-independent (ER-) breast cancer has no effective treatment and is the malignancy that affects women most frequently worldwide. (Gu and Leonard, 2006)
It is well known that Coprinus comatus contains substances that kill nematodes (Li and Xiang, 2005). The root-knot nematode (Meloidogyne arenaria) and the free-living nematode Panagrellus redivivus are specifically immobilized, killed, and used by the shaggy mane mushroom.
It accomplishes this by creating a structure known as a "spiny ball," which is a burr-like structure made up of several small tubes. Nematodes placed in shaggy mane mushroom cultures, which have been raised on nutritional agar, go dormant in a matter of hours. (Luo et al., 2004)
How do you grow shaggy mane mushrooms?
Both indoors and outdoors, it is simple to grow Coprinus comatus mushrooms. Its incredibly short shelf life is the sole factor, in my opinion, that prevents it from being a widely farmed mushroom. Nevertheless, let me give you some essential steps that you can take to grow shaggy mane:
Step 1: Culturing and preparing the spawn
The shaggy mane's spawn is usually prepared with sterilized grain that was inoculated from liquid culture, agar wedge, or master grain spawn. For this type of mushroom, sawdust spawn will not work.
At room temperature, it will colonize with the thick, white, cottony mycelium growing firmly all over. After being thoroughly colonized with liquid culture or grain, grain jars should take closer to three weeks as the grower uses agar wedges.
Coprinus comatus culture can be grown on Malt Yeast Extract Agar and kept in the fridge for several months.
Step 2: The shaggy mane substrate
Shaggy mane thrives on nitrogen-rich composites made from manure. The mushroom's preferred typical substrates are mixtures of pasteurized sawdust or straw and cow or horse dung. Do not use manure-free supplemental sawdust fruiting blocks because these will not produce adequate fruitings.
A 50:50 mixture of coco-coir and cow dung is particularly effective for home gardeners. Although these low-nutrient substrates can be pasteurized without much risk of contamination, the substrate can be sterilized if desired.
Step 3: Using fruiting bags
In addition to outdoor beds and trays, Shaggy Mane may grow on almost any horizontal surface.
Because they can be completely sterilized and left to colonize any place with little risk of contamination, I recommend using mushroom grow bags. Trays or small totes can also be used; in this instance, pasteurizing the substrate would be sufficient.
Step 4: Fruiting the substrate
After the Shaggy Mane has wholly colonized the substrate, it can be enclosed and placed in a fruiting environment. Pasteurized peat moss that has been moistened to field capacity should make up the casing layer. To avoid contamination, add some hydrated lime to the casing mixture.
The casing layer aids in preserving humidity on the tray or block's fruiting surface. The casing layer will begin to be colonized by the shaggy mane. Large pins will eventually start poking through the surface.
If peat moss is unavailable, vermiculite can be used as a substitute. Although it costs more, it does not require pasteurization and is popularly known to resist contaminants.
Step 5: Harvesting the mushroom
The signal for you to harvest shaggy mane mushrooms is just before the cap begins to split from the stem, which signifies that it will start to produce spores and deliquesce. Before harvest, allowing the fruit to dry out somewhat can significantly reduce the rate of fruit deterioration. To do this, reduce the humidity for 8–12 hours before harvest.
Harvest by twisting off with your hands or cutting off at the stem near the casing. The blocks or trays can be kept under fruiting conditions after harvest to allow for a second flush.
How do you keep shaggy mane mushrooms after harvest?
Cleaning the mushroom
It would help if you took extra care when handling and picking shaggy mane mushrooms since they are delicate and easily broken. Shaggy mane mushrooms that have been bruised fast begin to turn soft, black, and damp, which is bad news for you because their lifespan becomes even shorter.
Trim off any damaged or bruised areas of shaggy manes before cleaning them. After that, lightly clean them with a soft brush to remove any dirt. Some people also delicately use butter knives to remove the caps' scales. But only if there is a lot of dirt trapped underneath the scales will this be necessary.
It's better to avoid washing shaggy manes due to their high water content and sensitive caps.
Storing the mushroom
It is recommended to pick saggy mane mushrooms right before you intend to prepare them because of their limited shelf life. You typically have no more than 24 hours to use a shaggy mane before it turns into an unusable black mess.
However, I would advise using them four to six hours after harvest.
If you want to preserve shaggy mane mushrooms, you can store them in a container of cold water in the refrigerator. The idea is that the lack of oxygenated air slows the decomposition. Sauteing shaggy manes before storing them in the fridge is another approach to extend their shelf life.
Preserving the mushroom
Shaggy mane mushrooms have a very short shelf life, suggesting that these must be stored immediately. You may consider the following preservation steps for shaggy mane mushrooms:
It is possible to dehydrate shaggy mane mushrooms, and China, where shaggy manes are grown economically, follows this preservation method. In specific supermarkets, packets of dried shaggy mane mushrooms occasionally appear.
Slice shaggy manes into pieces that are about half an inch (1.3 cm) thick, then spread them out in a single layer in a dehydrator to dry them off. You can also hang them in a warm, well-ventilated area in a single layer on a breathable mesh surface or thread.
Just a reminder: Shaggy manes may lose their mild flavor as you dry them, so this method might not be the ideal technique for preservation.
Use the same methods for pickled mushrooms as you would for pickled cucumbers. There are several pickling recipes to choose from. Try a few, then pick your favorite.
Pickle little shaggy manes whole, and slice larger ones in half or quarters if necessary. Pickled shaggy mane mushrooms are great as appetizers, even though pickling alters the mushrooms' original flavor.
Placing the newly-harvested shaggy mane mushrooms inside your freezer is another preservation method on my list. Although you can freeze your raw shaggy manes, be informed that this approach does not keep their texture well. For this reason, shaggy mane mushrooms are preferred as a flavoring for sauces and soups.
The remedy for the abovementioned issue is solved by cooking the mushrooms before freezing them. It will help them last longer. The delicate flavors of fresh shaggy mane mushrooms are best preserved with this technique.
To begin the step of freezing shaggy mane mushrooms, blanch the fresh mushrooms for 15 seconds in boiling water. Afterward, plunge them into a bowl of ice water to chill.
They should be taken out of the water right away, then placed in a colander to drain for 30 minutes. After that, place them in freezer bags and press out as much air as possible. Then, seal the bag, and store them inside your freezer.
What do shaggy mane mushrooms taste like?
Shaggy mane mushrooms possess a mildly earthy taste, yet this still gives them a unique flavor. The texture of the shaggy mane is thought to be soft and buttery.
Do not be bothered to combine these mushrooms with ingredients of intense flavors. Young shaggy manes are also frequently used in broths and soups.
How are shaggy mane mushrooms cooked?
Even though this unique fungus is hard to miss, very few people are aware of the shaggy mane mushroom's kitchen uses. Many people relate the flavor of the young stems to asparagus, and younger samples can be sautéed or eaten in a soup. However, since the mushrooms become a black slime as it opens their cap, you should cook them right away.
You may enjoy shaggy mane mushrooms by frying them with butter. This quick and easy preparation guarantees a healthy yet flavorful mushroom meal. These mushrooms are also a suitable soup recipe that you can enjoy during cooler autumn days.