Shaggy Ink Caps. My third allowed species of mushroom for munching now.
As many of you might have inferred, I’m fascinated by the mycological. I try to learn all I can about these strange little helpers. They are so alien, so unlike other organisms, and sometimes their fruiting bodies can be really rather tasty. I won’t eat anything that I haven’t picked, inspected, dissected, identified and then had a reliable second opinion about 3 times. That’s a bare minimum and it stops me from dying or from hurting my friends.
Last year at around this time Lou and I saw some large old Shaggy Ink Caps near one of our favourite parks outside Brighton. They were already turned but unmistakable. Huge beautiful mushrooms. Their gills go to black as they mature, and then they turn into black slime. They can’t really be sold as a result. You can only eat the young ones and even then they deliquesce extremely quickly once uprooted. If you keep an uprooted one overnight, it’ll just be muck in the morning. As a result, a rare delicacy. But we found a load last year, past it, and I remembered them for this year.
If they were past it last year it’s because nobody was picking them, I thought. And I was right.
We drove past the little layby, and I said “keep an eye out and tell me if you see any mushrooms”. “Ooh! A huge one!” We stopped. The layby was full of them. I improvised a basket. I took half of the fruiting bodies that were small enough.
An unusual mushroom. A very mushroomy looking black and strange spotted creature by the side of the road. They look incredible, and they change massively as they age. I took lots, thanking them as I took them, careful not to damage the actual mycology below those tempting strange fruits. I put them in an improvised basket in the back of my car. We went for a walk, then I dropped Lou off for work and I drove back to London.
I stopped about an hour ago and went in to see Tanya in Richmond. I brought in the basket. Probably 4 hours since picking them. Half of them were already ink.
They used to MAKE ink with these things. Put them in a bucket with some cloves and not much else… I can really see why. We were much more ingenious forever ago. Now we rarely even USE ink. We just read on screens.
I found the ones that were still good. I cut the bad bits and I rubbed them clean with kitchen towel. No need to rinse with water unless they’re going in soup. They’ll only be slimy if you do. They ended up ready on the kitchen surface.
Fried in butter and fed to three with a bit of parsley. My first allowed forage of that species. Tasty, and I can tell why they call them “asparagus mushrooms”. The thing that really struck me was how quickly they go wrong. A true delicacy and a rarity. I’ll be keeping an eye out in that spot next year.
There’s a joy in foraged foods. I just fed two friends and they had been drinking, but I’m pretty much certain that the coprine from common ink caps is not present in the shaggy variety in anything like enough quantity to interact badly with alcohol. I was 100% certain on every fragment that went into the pan though. That’s the only way with mushrooms.
I’m glad to have a third allowed species. I guess I’ve been doing this long enough now that I can start allowing the eating, which is part of the reason I learnt. Still, I get nervous at it, and I guess that’s the honourable thing to do. I’m erring on the side of caution always. But don’t fuck with mushrooms kids.