This is my favourite foraged mushroom so far! A friend, whom I’d not seen for some years, but has been a great supporter of my blog, invited me to visit his home and do some foraging.
Home being the grounds of an eighteenth century manor!
Gardens, meticulously cultivated many years ago, overlooked by ancient trees from around the world, carefully selected by James Veitch of the known horticultural family.
Today, the once carefully pruned gardens have a wonderful wildness to them, among the laden fruit trees, many wild plants flourish and the undisturbed soil is rich with fungi.
A Foragers Paradise!
It was a gloriously sunny day, and as we arrived it was the gigantic Lucombe Oak that first commanded our attention. Pale pink Cyclamen flowers nestled in it’s shade.
We ambled peacefully around the sun dappled grounds, excitedly examining trees, plants and fungi. Collecting wild plums of some sort, small, dark and sweet.
It was as we rounded a bend to a clearing among the trees, that I gasped with delight, as even from a distance the majestic mushrooms were clearly visible, standing proudly upright!
Immediately the word Parasol popped into my head and I quickly consulted my Food For Free pocket book… Preliminary check agreed, Parasols!
We collected 4 or 5 large ones to take home with us and I began investigating to get a definite identification.
I became rather alarmed reading about a very toxic look-alike called Chlorophyllum molybdites, commonly known as False Parasol or, rather tellingly, The Vomiter (yikes!).
Confusingly, some sources described the Parasol as an easily identifiable edible, while others warned beginners off due to the risk of misidentification…
Things finally became clearer when I realised that Chlorophyllum molybdites is a North American Mushroom (and allegedly the most common cause of poisoning from wild mushrooms there) but not native to the UK, which was a relief!
Even so, I was still careful to check the identifying features; the stipe (stem) being a crucial factor for me, described as having a snakeskin appearance.
I had only picked the large fully open mushrooms but was unaware at the time that this is recommended, as the smaller closed ones can be harder to distinguish from other species.
The Toxic Look-alike
Even though Chlorophyllum molybdites isn’t a UK mushroom, I have since read that there have been some sightings of it in Scotland and possibly England, I don’t know how reliable that information is but it seems wise to stay vigilant!
Another common name for the unpleasant impostor is Green-gilled Lepiota, an important clue to distinguishing it from the palatable parasol. The gills tend to turn green, the colour of the spores, as it ages. A spore print can confirm, as it will be green in comparison to the Parasol (Macrolepiota procera), which is white.
How I Ate It
As often happens, I didn’t have a great deal of energy left for cooking after a days foraging, so went for my usual quick favourite: Spaghetti!
I cooked some garlic and a handful of wild greens from the garden with the chopped mushrooms which drastically reduced in size as they cooked (the pan was full)!
I had googled recipe suggestions, and saw them being cooked whole in the frying pan, which looks really good. If I’m lucky enough to find them again, I shall certainly try it. I was too hungry and tired this time.
I never used to like mushrooms, I was into my thirties before I actually began to enjoy them, and only when cooked very specifically. I rarely order them in a restaurant because I don’t trust anyone else to cook them how I like them.
It’s the soggy, slimy texture I can’t stand, so I was a bit worried that these were still a bit limp when I’d cooked them, but they were actually delicious. Really tasty indeed!