Foraging Fun: Agaricus campestris

The Meadow mushroom (Agaricus campestris) is a close relative of the button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) but processes a complex life cycle and requires a specific enough habitat so as to have so far evaded extensive cultivation and remains a treasure of wild (or at least semi-wild) spaces. I enjoyed my first meadow mushrooms last autumn and have been hooked ever since, but be warned that experiencing them once will ruin store bought, indoor grown A. bisporus (whether it’s the white, brown or portabello varieties) for good. I’m sure that meadow mushrooms have a similar flavor to what button mushrooms are supposed to taste like before they were first cultivated in caves throughout the French countryside and are now instead grown in sterile and  temperature and moisture controlled warehouses.

The meadow mushroom is a pretty mushroom-y mushroom, with that distinct  and oh-so-intriguing musty and earthy flavor. If picked before or right at their peak of firmness and consumed fresh, the texture is also beautiful; quite meaty and somewhat chewy. The two specimens pictured above were spotted fruiting side by side underneath one of our rogue tomatoes in the herb garden at Heart’s Content Farm. I watched them grow out for 3 days before picking them yesterday morning, the buttons that emerged were quite large and so I decided to let them continue to develop.

Meadow mushrooms in a nutshell are often large, conspicuous mushrooms with short, thick stalks, a veil and white to buff-white caps and pink gills which turn chocolate brown as they mature. They are found individually or in fairy rings which can number more than half a dozen or more individuals.

Meadows mushrooms, as well as other closely related Agaricus species including A. arvensis, can be found in late summer through early autumn (usually September) growing in open, sunny or partly sunny places among grass and low weeds on lawns and in parks. They are often (if not exclusively) reported to occur in close association with human habitation. It therefore wouldn’t be too much of a stretch so say that his fungus has been unintentionally domesticated in the sense that it is becoming cozy with our modified landscapes; Meadow mushrooms are learning to integrate themselves into an environmental niche that is entirely man-made, and I’m confident that in our absence they would weave there way back into the world in some other form. Fungi are endlessly fascinating and adaptive.

Meadow mushrooms are quite easy to identify, even for the blossoming (or perhaps sporulating, would be more appropriate?) fungiphile as long as you know about some important traits to look for. I cover most of that information on a previous post which also took a look at Agaricus mushrooms and how to forage safely for the edible species entitled Shroom Hunting: Princes, Horses & Meadows. As always, consult several sources in order to ensure a positive identification before you sampling anything, but I’m hoping that it really wasn’t necessary that I mention that. You’re all intelligent, responsible people that wouldn’t even dream of consuming a wild mushroom which you are somewhat certain you know is the correct species. That’s good, I’m glad to here that! Happy October everyone. More to come very soon..