My wife called my attention to these beauties growing beneath a tree on our street. I knew at once what they were, but took the time with my children to carefully key them out and verify my identification.
They are white mushrooms, bullet shaped, and covered with russet brown flaky scales.
The stalk is while, slender and hollow.
The gills are very densely crowded, free from the stalk, and along with the caps they dissolve from the edge into an inky, black liquid as they mature, as two of these specimens were already starting to do.
In fall, with these characteristics, they could only be shaggy manes (Coprinus comatus) - called Lawyer's Wigs in Britain - a delicate and delicious member of the family of inky cap mushrooms.
I first had shaggy manes at my friend Nic Osborn's in his fantastic troll house of a home over in Taconic. The process of autodigestion that turns them from white to inky black is part of how they reproduce and release their spores, and it means that these beauties need to be quickly sauteed after picking. I twisted and detached the stalks and trimmed the ragged edges of the caps, and tosses the pieces into a skillet with a little butter. My children were utterly delighted and declared them excellent fare - a rare compliment from my daughter with her many food aversions. It also gave me the opportunity to reinforce the parental injunction against putting anything in your mouth that you find in the wild without adult supervision. I want them to respect the fact that what you don't know can, in fact, kill you, but not to fear those wild foods they can learn to identify and are wonderful treats for those in the know.
We also helped ourselves to some wild apples and made bars of apple crisp, a deep dish pie with a hint of ginger, and a quart of applesauce that required no sweetener. I also got plenty of material for my next article in the Lakeville Journal, which comes out on October 23rd and which I will link to when it does.
Now, if I could only find some sulfur shelf or lobster mushrooms! There is an old oak tree where the former used to grow, but being a roadside tree they never seemed to last more than a day or so before some passing mycophagist made off with the prize. Better me than thee, at least where edible mushrooms are concerned! I'll be happy to serve some up for you if you are in the neighborhood.