Searching for the Shaggy-Maned Ones

Shaggy-maned mushrooms in the Peace Country, AB.

Shaggy-maned mushrooms in the Peace Country, AB.

A couple of weeks back, I went out on a mission for coprinus comatus – those colony-sprouting shrooms that go by the street name of shaggy-maned-ones. After a mad bout of rain had hit the hills of the Peace, I got a hot tip from my fellow mushroom-loving-friend, Ms Jess, that the moisture had them propagating and populating alongside many a country road. The air was getting colder everyday which told us that we had to act fast, so one late afternoon we geared up (she in rubber boots and me in yellow Chuck Taylor sneaks) and grabbed a bucket and pocketknife. We were ready for action.

Jess took the wheel and we slowly cruised the gravel country roads, scouring the ditches for any signs of the shaggies. At first, I didn’t know what I was looking for – how many times before had I driven along this road without any thought to the wild edibles loving the moist sloping land? And suddenly – “Stop the car!” The mushrooms seemed to instantaneously surface from the silvery fog of my own doubt, but there they were indeedy, sitting quietly in their natural habitat: clustered around the edge of the road, it was an aging colony of shaggy-maned mushrooms.

Jess shaving the long maned mushroom.

Jess shaving the long maned mushroom.

Jess slowly rolled to a stop and we promptly got out to investigate. They were old relics, no good for soups and such – their heads fanned out and covered in black sludge, good only for returning to the damp earth lining the ditch of which we give so very little consideration.

Back to the road. But we didn’t have to wait long: soon after Jess spotted a group congregating in the shade of a poplar stand. She plucked one up – a white oval with a head of brown hair – and began softly skinning off the hair-like bits protruding from its body. Coma is Latin for hairy. These hairy ones were also once referred to as Lawyer’s Wigs.

Regardless of what you call them, the Shaggies love to silently pop up in unsuspecting places, growing “isolated or gregarious, in woods, grassland, gardens, fine dark grounds – very common in urban and suburban areas” (North American Mushrooms).

Harvested mushies, ready for soup!

Harvested mushies, ready for soup!

It was a good hunt that afternoon. Jess and I drove home with two buckets brimming with mushies that were already beginning to brown. The Shaggies are impatient creatures. The Shaggies won’t wait for you in the cold room. Once they’ve been plucked, skinned and plunked in the harvesting bucket, they need to find their way into a soup or omelet or whatever you please within hours of leaving the ground – otherwise they’ll shrivel into spore nothingness.

Luckily, Jess, being a seasoned mushroom huntress, rustled up a recipe for shaggy-maned mushroom soup and before we knew it we were sautéing minced garden leek and lots of garlic and the chopped white mushrooms into the melting butter.

A delicious end result!

A delicious end result!

Mmm is for mouth watering, people.

And you can do it, too! Yes, even you city dwelling folk. Don’t say no when you’ve never even looked. No hunting license necessary.

-Trina

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