Hygrophorus Mushrooms

by Cornelius Burlemax

The Fairy-ring ,champignon has been well known to country dwellers for long time. Apart from the Boletus and the Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius) this used to be the only mushroom picked for eating. Its distinguishing characteristics are a pleasant smell of burnt almonds, an elastic yet firm stipe and its permanently white, sparse and deeply cut gills. It grows in circles in strips of dark green grass on the margins of forests, in pastures on downs and lawns, and alongside meadow paths. It is a tasty, popular mushroom, particularly good for preparing soups.

It has only a faint mushroom scent but cannot be mistaken for other gill fungi, because these usually do not grow at this time of the year. It is a good edible species, which adds a rielrflavour to a variety of dishes. It is especially good for soups and for pickling in vinegar.

Collybia dryophila is an edible species and again particularly good for soups. However, only its caps are collected as the stipes are too tough. It can be easily recognized by its conspicuously crowded gills, which are usually white, and by its pleasant mushroom taste and scent.

The .Laccaria genus is distinguished from the Clitocybe genus by its thick, well-spaced gills, which are densely covered with spore powder and flesh-pink or purple in colour. Its spore powder accumulated on a sheet of paper is, however, white despite the colour of the gills. These spores arc rounded or broadly elliptical with a prominent spring network.

Both Laccaria laccata and . amethystea are very abundant, common mushrooms in the damp forests of temperate zones. This is especially true of the former species. The difference between them is noticeable at first sight, although Laccaria laccata varies considerably in size and in the surface of its cap and stipe. Some varieties are now being considered as independent species, such as the sturdy Laccaria Proxima, with the cap often completely, covered with small scales and the stipe with rough longitudinal fibres.

Mycena polygramma is similar in appearance but is usually smaller, with an impressive blue-grey to silver-grey stipe, which has long roots and is longitudinally marked with thin lines. Its flesh is tasteless though edible. However, it is relatively unimportant because of its small size. Like Mycena galericulata it grows on the stumps of trunks of deciduous trees, either individually or in clusters.

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