There’s a spot on my land in Central PEI where I used to collect Shaggy Manes (Coprinus comatus), but haven’t found any there for many years. This fall,
I thought I should check again. I’m happy I did!
Shaggy Manes are great for beginning mushroom foragers (like me!) because they’re easy to identify and hard to mistake for anything else. They emerge from the ground like an elongated egg and are covered in upturned scales, giving them a shaggy appearance (Photo 1). Underneath that cap is a hollow, cylindrical stem. If you’re going to eat them, this is the stage you want (Photo 2).
Pick only what you’re going to use the same day, as these beauties do not store well. Shaggy Manes are sometimes called Ink Caps because they typically dissolve into a black, ink-like goo from the bottom up within a day or less (a process called “deliquescence”, Photo 3). This is part of the fungus’ reproductive strategy: the black goo is full of spores, helping the mushroom spread. You can also use it for writing or drawing. One of the coolest things I’ve seen is a beautiful drawing an artist did of a Shaggy Mane mushroom using Shaggy Mane ink.
Shaggy Manes are considered one of our choice edibles. Sautéed in butter (Photo 4), their taste is slightly stronger and less meaty than Puffballs but more complex, and equally umami-rich. These had pleasantly bitter undernotes that I’d compare to a tannic red wine or well-hopped beer - not in flavour, but in the way they complimented the main earthy notes of the mushroom.
As a final note, you may have heard it’s unsafe to drink alcohol with Shaggy Manes, but that’s not true. There IS a related species - Tippler’s Bane (Coprinopsis atramentaria) - that will make you sick if you’ve consumed alcohol within a day or two before or after eating it, but Shaggy Manes don’t have the same effect.
You can find Shaggy Manes in grassy areas - and sometimes in mulch or wood chips - across the Island. Another cool PEI fungus!