Fall is a fantastic time to hunt for edible mushrooms of all sorts here on the Washington coast–and, really, all the rain-soaked portions of the entire Pacific Northwest. Living in a rural area allows me easier access to a wide variety of species, and I’ve been making the most of celebrating the return of the rain and the fruiting of the fungi. I’ve been able to try a few new-to-me species as well as some old favorites, and this week has certainly put shaggy mane mushrooms front and center!
See, there’s this nice big patch of shaggy mane mushrooms that pop up every year on the east side of our barn. They started out in the stall on the end, and then moved their way under the wall to the outside, where they have just been growing like gangbusters. I suspect the spores came in with some aged manure a few years ago when we were building up the very sandy soil in the pasture. Since the barn gets a regular dose of nutrients from the sheep and ducks there, the shaggy mane mycelium has been eating well. And because they have a short fruiting season, I’ve picked several pounds of shaggy mane mushrooms this week!
Unlike many edible fungi, shaggy mane mushrooms decay very quickly after being picked. They spread their spores not through gills, but by breaking down into a black, gooey substance which releases the spores into the air. While they do this when they reach maturity, picking or breaking the mushrooms also triggers this decay. It’s not uncommon for someone to put a pile of shaggy mane mushrooms in their refrigerator one day, and then come back to a squishy black mess the next morning. While the decay can be slowed a day or so by putting them in ice water, they’re best prepared the same day they were picked.
Preserving Shaggy Mane Mushrooms
I have a couple of methods for keeping shaggy mane mushrooms from “disappearing” on me too quickly. One is to cook them using some of my favorite recipes. I do enjoy air-frying mushrooms, and fresh shaggy manes do very well in this capacity. If I know I’m going to be preparing them in a soup or omelette tomorrow, I saute them in butter as soon as I get them home and cleaned up. They’ll keep in the fridge a few days that way.
However, this year the patch has given me a serious bumper crop of shaggy manes, and so I need to get some into the freezer. Most mushrooms I tend to saute in butter or olive oil before freezing tem, but because shaggy mane mushrooms are so delicate I wanted something that would reduce the amount of time they were exposed to heat. This meant a quick blanch in boiling water.
First, I clean my shaggy mane mushrooms thoroughly. I wash them in cold water, and then remove the dirty ends of the stipes.
Next, I blanch them in boiling water for about 15-20 seconds, using a slotted spoon to constantly stir them so that they are evenly blanched. Don’t worry if the older ones start to fray at the edges; they’ll still taste just fine!
I then use the spoon to transfer them to cold water. They warm the water up very quickly; you can add ice if you want, but I find that carefully pouring out the warmed water and adding more cold a few times through this whole blanching process helps to flush out any remaining debris. Just be careful to block the mushrooms from pouring out as well!
I pat them dry with towels, and then put them into a plastic freezer bag with all the air pushed out. These frozen shaggy manes won’t have a good enough texture once thawed for frying, but they’re perfectly acceptable for soups, omelettes, and other such recipes.
Have Some Recipes!
Speaking of, here’s how I prepare shaggy mane mushrooms.
Air fried shaggy mane mushrooms:
Clean four to six shaggy mane mushrooms per person (a few more if you have smaller mushrooms); younger mushrooms that have not yet started to turn gray or black at the bottom edges are best. Wash them well, and cut larger ones in half. Roll in flour, dredge in egg, and then roll in bread crumbs (you can also add parmesan cheese and other seasonings to the bread crumbs if you like.) Put them in your air fryer basket, and then cook at 350 degrees for seven minutes. I don’t bother preheating my air fryer, but if you do you may wish to check on your mushrooms after about four to five minutes. I like mine with ranch dressing, though feel free to experiment with other dipping sauces.
Shaggy mane mushroom soup:
Clean as many shaggy mane mushrooms as you want to put in your soup; keep in mind that they shrink as they’re cooked. You can use the ones that have started to turn black as well as younger ones; the older ones will turn your soup dark, but they don’t adversely affect the taste and they’re perfectly fine to eat. Saute in butter on medium heat for five minutes, then transfer to your soup pot. I also like to add in some king bolete mushrooms, as well as carrots, onions, garlic, and potatoes; as you might notice, I don’t really use exact measurements as the composition of each soup depends entirely on how many shaggy manes and other ingredients I have. Add in enough water to cover everything; I also add a tablespoon of chicken bouillon powder per cup of water (you can use vegetable bouillon if you prefer), and season with black pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 25 minutes or until all the vegetables are cooked through. Serve immediately. (The black from the older shaggy manes and the bright orange of the carrots make this quite appropriate for the Halloween season!)
So there’s my beginner-friendly post on how to prepare shaggy mane mushrooms. Anyone else found them this year?
If you enjoyed this post, check out my other articles on foraging and other natural history topics. I also teach classes on mushroom hunting, nature identification, and more!