The color blue isn’t in the Bible. Research suggests we didn’t recognize it as a color back then. I believe the world is filled with elements that are self-evident but unseen until something triggers our awareness.
This is how I feel about shaggy parasols, a large, omnipresent, and delicious mushroom growing wild and vigorously in our gardens and lawns. One would think, based on the trendiness of foraging, homesteading, and cooking fresh local ingredients, that our community would be aware of such a resource. But we are not, in spite of them surrounding us from late spring to early fall. Like when you buy a car and suddenly the brand seems everywhere, learn this species and you will begin finding it.
Shaggy parasols are the common name of three similar and safe species in the genus of Chlorophyllum: one east of the Cascades, Chlorophyllum rachodes, and the west side sports the other two. Like many urban mushrooms, they are saprophytes, helping break down organic matter in the soil. In the forest, more fungi are in a mutually beneficial relationship with trees. Shaggy parasols usually grow in scattered groups but can also be found individually or in a ring. They generally return once or twice a year to the same area.
If you come across a portabella-sized white mushroom in your yard with thick scales on the cap, a ring on the stem and bulbous base, it’s probably C. rachodes. To be sure, cut the stem in half and, in addition to being hollow, it will quickly turn carrot orange. There is one poisonous member in the group, but conveniently it lives outside the Pacific Northwest.
Shaggy parasols are similar in flavor to portabellas but are more concentrated, with a nutty mineral character, making them perfect for classic mushroom dishes from pizza to pasta to stroganoff.
Half of the calls I receive to identify fungi during the warmer months are asking about C. rachodes. If your yard is a healthy ecosystem rich with mulch and plants and free of fungicides, this backyard treasure will most likely show up. It’s virtually a weed, and weeds—along with insects and invasive species—should be staples of our diet so we can continue to multiply without obliterating the natural world.
Identifying Attributes: Large white cap with shaggy darker scales on top and gills that don’t attach to the stipe. A smooth, ringed, orange-staining (the key to easy recognition) hollow stem rises from a bulbous base.
Look-alikes: No other big white mushrooms in the city will stain carrot orange when cut.
Culinary Attributes: Delicious, rich mushroom flavor that is comparable to a portabella but more potent. Goes great in stuffings, with grains, and grilled on a sandwich. The stems are fibrous and better diced or minced before cooking.
Wine Pairings: Red Burgundy (produced in France). //
Kelly Chadwick is a snowboarder, hiker, bicyclist, and occasional backpacker. His last article for Out There highlighted spring kings.
[Feature photo: Shaggy Parasols // Kelly Chadwick]