This is a rare find. I’m wondering whether it’s one in a lifetime. I had a free evening, so figured I’d go check to see if any more Agaricus Campestris had showed up where I found them last – in the river valley only a couple km away. No dice. So I picked a few sad looking saskatoons. Deciding that the bush is usually more interesting [and dangerous] in the mushroom-find department, I took a narrow trail up the bank. Within about 25 yards, I was stopped dead in my tracks. Somehow, coming up upon giant mushrooms spooked me as if I’d come across a wild animal. I knew what they were right away: shaggy parasols. Big, big, shaggy parasols.
I had JUST picked the ones in my yard, that make 2-3 appearances a year, and have made me very familiar with this particular species – macrolepiota rachodes. But in an effort to have good discipline in the field, especially when giddy with a unique find, I checked for rusty orange stem discolouration [check], and evidence of white spore printing on surrounding leaves [check, big time]. On my way home I realized that my yard’s specimens were likely a very reliable indicator of when these giants might be found again, perhaps every year, perhaps multiple times a year. So now when I get the half kilo from my yard, I know where and when to go to possibly score a couple more kilos.
Having picked the huge mushrooms [altogether, there were about 10], I looked through the bush around me to see if there were more, and spotted the giants. Huge. Like, freakishly huge. I loaded up my arms, stacking the mushrooms like cord-wood, and lugged them back to my car, getting some very interesting looks from folks enjoying their evening walk. When I got home I quickly photo’d them, cleaned them up, tossed them in the oven to start drying, and went back to see what else I could find. The night was still young. My little adventure only took 20-30 minutes.
Went back to the same spot, noticed a small one just off a side trail, ducked down to pick it, and again, spooked by a giant staring at me. It’s the one in these photos, and the biggest of them all. It’s 11 3/8 wide, and stood over a foot tall. It weighed 490g – just shy of half a kilo. To add to the score, none of them were damaged by bugs. The best indicator of scale in the photo on the left is my black-sweatered arm holding it up. This single mushroom weighed in at what a half dozen big specimens normally do. The stem weighed 1/4 pound.
To add to my epic evening of foraging in the city, while checking to see if I had missed any Shaggy Parasols, I spotted my first potentially deadly poisonous mushroom. Amanita for sure, as the volva was obvious at the base, the gills were white on the mature specimen – two telling signs that if you ate this particular one, there’s a decent chance you could die, literally. I couldn’t be happier to have found it, as knowing what to look for is one thing, but seeing one in the flesh and identifying it by yourself is another. Amanita’s are largely responsible for the justifiable fear of death in folks when it comes to wild mushrooms – so learning about them is key to knowing what you can eat. iPhone photo at the bottom. What a night.