Inspired recently by my blogging friend Vesna (aka Kalipso of Busy Bee), who lives in Croatia, I have been taking a closer look at the fascinating fungus called Coprinus Comatus or "Shaggy Ink-cap".
I'm not very knowledgeable about fungi, and I would have serious reservations about eating a fungus that I could not identify with 100% certainty, but I reckon that even I could recognise one of these.
There is a place a couple of miles from where we live where I have seen (and photographed) Shaggy Ink-caps before, so I went there the other day to see if there were any there this year. Yes, there certainly are. This particular group is growing in the grassy verge of a small country road:
Closer inspection revealed that there were somewhere between 15 and 20 specimens of this very distinctive fungus, at different stages of maturity.
The ones in the next photo are very young. The biggest is about 7cm tall. These would probably be about the right size to choose if you were going to eat them. Vesna tells me that she coats Ink-caps in flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs, fries them until golden and then drains them on kitchen paper to remove any excess oil before serving.
The one at the right in this next photo is a "young adolescent", just beginning to go shaggy.
Once they reach this size I suspect that the Ink-caps would not be pleasant to eat. I have read that once they start to produce their "ink" they become bitter.
If you do plan to pick Shaggy Ink-caps for eating, I suggest you read up in detail on the matter. For instance, did you know that these things will "auto-dissolve", turning to a black inky mush as little as six hours after picking? NOT what you want to find in the bottom of your fridge!
By the way, Vesna has a blog that is specifically devoted to Croatian fungi, to which she has posted some really excellent photos taken by Danijel Balaško. It's called "Gljive Hrvatske / Mushrooms and Toadstools". If you are a fungus enthusiast you should take a look.