*It's only fair that while you read this post, you have the same song stuck in your head that I have stuck in mine, so please go queue up some Polly Scattergood and then come back to read. I'll wait. Ready? Ok.
So, dangerous nature lesson of the day: this is NOT a parasol mushroom. I know, you're all "hey, isn't that the mushroom renowned for its beef-and-walnuts flavor?" To which I say, NO, STOP, DO YOU HAVE A DEATH WISH, YOU MYCOLOGICAL MORON. I mean, really. Clearly, this is a false parasol, also known as the green-spored parasol, although in a Linda Richman-esque coincidence, green-spored parasols are often harvested when they are neither green nor have yet produced any spores. Discuss.
So, just in case your mama never told you not to eat strange mushrooms and you get a penchant for plucking whatever you find in the middle of a cherry orchard, here's the 411 on parasols:
- has white spores
- grows in mulch or open woods
- prefers cool, autumn temperatures
- grows singly, as opposed to in clumps/groups
- has at least some snake-like scaliness on its stalk
- has a slender stem, about 1/8 the width of the button cap
- has an "abruptly bulbous" stem with very pronounced widening toward the ground
- does not stain red upon being cut
- tastes of "roast beef and walnuts"
Chlorophyllum molybdites is a total poser and if you try to eat it, it will probably taste pretty good, but a few hours later you'll wish you'd never been born. Dr. Muskat tells us that it typically:
- has green spores (well, usually, if any are present)
- grows in grassy areas
- likes warm, summery weather...but might also emerge in fall
- grows in groups
- never has snakelike scales on the stalk
- has a stalk approximately 1/3 of the width of the button cap
- does not widen much toward the base/ground
- may stain weakly or strongly red when cut
- tastes meaty but not distinctively of beef/walnuts
Clear as mud, right? Given this criteria, I'm mostly sure that the very impressive 'shroom I found at Spring Valley Orchard is C. molybdites. Mostly. While I didn't know to check for spores (and didn't have paper available to me, anyway, and didn't want to demolish the pretty fungus), it was in a grassy clearing between fruit trees, had almost certainly grown during a heat wave, had no scales to speak of on the stalk, and did not appear to have a bulb at the base. I didn't notice any other mushrooms around and didn't cut it or cook it and taste it, but based on what information I do have, I think leaving it alone is a strong choice. I feel very well-prepared to not eat this mushroom.
You, too, can be a Google mycologist. Go, hunt mushrooms in good health.
Yeah, I'm not going to, either. Well, someday I do want to learn a little bit about mycology, because I think fungi are super-cool, but I can't really see myself eating what I find, especially since I'm not sure I'd even trust what's on a total expert's table.