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Shaggy Mane Mushroom

Coprinus comatus

Admire the structural delicacy of this stately mushroom, balanced precariously atop its tall, slender white stem. The long white bell-shaped cylindrical cap is covered with large shaggy buff, tan or brown scales, giving it the appearance of a British lawyer's wig. This is why one of its common names is "lawyer's wig." The spores are black. When young, a dainty annular ring is found around the stem; this ring drops down the stem as the mushroom matures. Within twenty-four to forty-eight hours, the borders of the cap begin to liquefy, and the entire cap is converted into a pool of inky black fluid, the origin of the common name "inky cap." Liquefied Coprinus comatus was used as writing ink in George Washington's day.

Shaggy Mane -- Click for larger image

Despite its seemingly frail appearance, this mushroom can generate enough power to perform one of nature's most astonishing weight-lifting acts. Emerging shaggy mane caps may lift asphalt pavement into the air in segments, fragmenting it in the process. They do this by gradually absorbing water and slowly expanding, exerting upward pressure far out of proportion to their fragile substance.

This mushroom contributes its unique robust flavor to some of the tastiest wild-mushroom dishes, such as chicken Tetrazzini and shaggy mane cream soup. For the finest flavor it must be consumed before it begins to liquefy. Eating the dissolving mushroom is not harmful, but the cooked remnants will be slimy and less flavorful than those with solid flesh. Vietnamese villagers invert them in the hollows of empty egg cartons to prevent liquefaction in order to transport them. This allows them to survive for a few days longer. Fortunately, Coprinus comatus often fruits in large numbers, affording the collector the opportunity to gather mainly young and unliquefied specimens.

Coprinus micaceus ("mica cap") is a smaller, tawny yellow to reddish-brown member of this genus. In some parts of the country, it is more abundant than the shaggy mane. It is occasionally found growing in clumps from under protective rocks or logs. With a hand lens, shiny, angular, granular crystals may be seen at the apex of the cap. These particles resemble mica, from which the mushroom derives its name. C. micaceus can be used as a substitute for C. comatus, but it is not as flavorsome.

Some people eat C. atramentarius, a close relative of the shaggy mane. This mushroom contains a chemical called coprine, a substance which acts like the medicine Antabuse. As a rule, when alcoholic beverages of any sort are drunk before or after eating these mushrooms, one becomes quite uncomfortable.


Using your fingers or a soft brush and as little water as possible, very gently clean the mushrooms of dirt and debris. Water hastens their deterioration, so they should be cooked immediately. Careful collecting and gentle handling are essential to keep them intact.


Do not cut these mushrooms into small pieces. The tissues are tender and the Coprinus cooks quickly. Sauté it in butter with chopped onions, salt and pepper, and add it to soup or pasta. Much liquid is released from the mushrooms when they are heated. Pouring off the fluid for later use will speed up the cooking process.

Its unique aromatic taste is transferred to the other foods and liquid with which it is prepared. Dairy dishes, soups, pasta, and poultry pick up its savoriness exceptionally well.


After sautéing for 3 to 5 minutes, place in containers for freezing. Most of their flavor is lost when shaggy manes are dried.

Shaggy Mane Quiche

Serves 6 as a first course

The shaggy mane is a favorite mushroom among mushroom-lovers. The caps liquefy rapidly, so speed is essential in getting them into the pot. One ardent admirer of this mushroom takes a skillet and butter on collecting trips so that the shaggy manes can be eaten where they are found.

  • 1/2 recipe pie crust (page xx)
  • 5 to 6 bacon slices, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 to 1 pound shaggy manes, sliced
  • 4 shallots or green onions, minced
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated provolone cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 4 eggs, well beaten
  • 2 cups half and half

Prepare the pie crust. Roll the dough out to a 10-inch crust. Line a 9-inch pie pan with the crust. Crimp the edges.

In a sauté pan or skillet, fry the bacon until crisp, then remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat and sauté the mushrooms and shallots until the shallots are translucent and most of the mushroom liquid has evaporated.

Spread the bacon over the pie crust. Add the grated cheese, then the mushroom and shallots. Mix the nutmeg, salt, and cayenne into the beaten eggs. Add the cream. Slowly pour the custard mixture over the bacon, cheese, and mushrooms.

Bake the quiche in a preheated 350º oven for about 35 minutes or until the custard is set and the top is brown.

--Kitchen Magic with Mushrooms

ALTERNATE MUSHROOMS: Chanterelle, Common Store Mushroom, Morels

Crêpes Forestière

Serves 8 as a main course

Shea suggests serving this dish with crisp steamed julienne strips of carrots, garnished with watercress.

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 to 2-1/2 cups milk
  • Oil
  • 1-1/2 pounds shaggy mane mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup half and half
  • Salt and pepper to taste

To make the crêpes, place the flour in a mixing bowl and stir in the eggs. Add the salt and enough milk to make a batter the consistency of heavy cream. Let the batter stand for 1 hour or more.

Brush a crêpe pan or skillet lightly with oil, then heat the pan until a few drops of water dropped into it sizzle and steam. Pour in just enough batter to coat the bottom of the pan, then tilt the pan to spread the batter thinly and evenly. Cook over moderate heat until the edges of the Crêpes begin to curl away from the pan. Turn the Crêpes out onto a tea towel by rapping the pan sharply. Repeat the process until you have made 16 Crêpess.

To make the filling, melt the butter in a sauté pan or skillet and cook the mushrooms for 5 minutes. Add the basil, salt, and pepper. Roll a spoonful or two of the mushroom mixture in each Crêpes and fasten with a toothpick. Keep Crêpess warm in the oven while preparing the sauce.

To make the sauce, sauté the onion in butter in a saucepan until translucent. Add the chicken broth, white wine, and half and half. Cook the sauce over high heat until it is reduced by half. Add salt and pepper.

When ready to serve, remove the Crêpess from the oven and place on a serving dish. Pour the sauce over the Crêpess and serve immediately.

--Shea Moss, from If You Can't Eat Your Mushroom, Take It Dancing

ALTERNATE MUSHROOMS: Blewit, Common Store Mushroom

Shaggy Mane Chicken Tetrazzini

Serves 4 to 6 as a main course

This dish was prepared for a mushroom society dinner by Teeda LoCodo, the illustrator of this book, and we are still talking about how delicious it was.

  • 1 pound shaggy mane mushrooms, sliced in half
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound cooked chicken or turkey meat
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1/2 pound vermicelli
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  • In a saucepan, sauté the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of the butter for 5 to 10 minutes, or until brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and mix with the chicken meat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the same pan and add the flour. Cook and stir for 2 or 3 minutes. Using a whisk, blend the chicken broth into the flour, whisking continually. When the sauce is thick, add the half and half, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and sherry. Continue to cook until the sauce is well blended. Remove from the heat.

    Cook the vermicelli in a large amount of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.

    Mix half of the sauce with the chicken and mushroom mixture, and the other half with the vermicelli.

    Alternate layers of vermicelli with the chicken and mushroom mixture in a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top and bake in a preheated 350º oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until bubbling and brown.

    --Teeda LoCodo

    ALTERNATE MUSHROOMS: Black Saddle Mushroom, Common Store Mushroom, Morels