FOTL wants to be a responsible blog. Really. We almost killed this post. But knowledge wins over fear and ignorance. So here’s the caveat emptor right up front: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. Misidentifying this mushroom could KILL YOU DEAD.
These are Amanita mushrooms. Edible ones, but that’s beside the point. The genus Amanita kills more people than any other genus of fungi. The similar looking Death Cap (Amanita phalloides) victimizes more hapless foragers than any other mushroom period, with the Destroying Angel (Amanita ocreata et al) close on its heels. This is not the darn-this-gastric-distress sort of discomfort; this is the sign-me-up-for-a-new-liver deal. Amatoxins cannot be cooked out, dried out, or diluted. There is no antidote. Take a few bites of the Death Cap and you better hope there’s a liver with your name on it. Click here for a survivor’s tale.
That said, there are a number of edible and choice Amanitas. Italians in particular are fond of them. They call this particular species Corccora or Coccoli (the latter translates as “pampered baby”), which will have to do for us too since our variety on the West Coast doesn’t have a widely used common name and the Latin is under dispute. You’ll see it referred to scientifically as Amanita calyptrata, A. calyptroderma, and A. lanei. David Arora refers to it as A. calyptrata in Mushrooms Demystified, but don’t be surprised if the next edition calls it A. lanei. In any event, all three names refer to the same mushroom.
Amanita mushrooms share some common traits. They fruit out of a cottony membrane known as
a universal veil or volva that encloses the entire body, commonly referred to as an egg. As the mushroom grows, the veil parts and begins to deteriorate, marking some species such as Amanita muscaria and Amanita pantherina with the warts that are so characteristic of the genus. The Corccora, on the other hand, is usually left with a distinctive white skullcap rather than warts.
Corccora generally exhibit striations at the cap margin (see those fine lines along the edge of the cap at top) and hollow stems (see sliced stem at right). Unlike most Amanitas, the gills and stem are creamy colored or light yellow rather than white. Older specimens have a fishy odor.
Now I’ve given you enough information to go out and get yourself killed—but it’s the same info you’ll find in the field guides. If you really want to try this mushroom, go hunting with someone who has local on-the-ground knowledge of the species and has been eating it for a long time. Corccora are mycorrhizal with Pacific madrone, so your best bet for habitat is the coastal mountain chain between Point Reyes, California, and Roseburg, Oregon. Isolated areas with good stands of madrone in Washington and B.C. also have Corccora. Here’s a video I shot a few days ago in the Rogue River Canyon of southwest Oregon that shows the unique egg-like fruiting and habitat:
The handsome specimens above got sauteed in butter and added to scrambled eggs. The hint of seafood and firm texture make them far superior to a standard supermarket button.
Other than that, the Rogue River mushroom harvest was pretty much a bust. We managed a pound or so of chanterelles from a never-miss spot and that was that. This time last year was perhaps the greatest fruiting of Boletus edulis I had ever seen, with more than we could reasonably eat and dry over the course of one long weekend, and Leccinums to boot, not to mention generous fruitings of white chanterelles and black trumpets as well. That’s the way it goes. Mushrooms can’t be entirely demystified.