The featured mushroom for September 2011 is...
The Parasol Mushroom, Lepiota procera;
aka Macrolepiota procera;
aka Chlorophyllum procerum;
aka Leucoagaricus procerus
The parasol mushroom is a very stately mushroom whose stalk can be as long as 12 inches with a cap as broad as 10 inches (European specimens can be even taller and broader). Parasols are highly desirable mushrooms because of their strong meaty to nutty flavor. Parasols are now being grown commercially in Europe where they are a particularly favored mushroom. The mushrooms look like a small model of huge sun-screen umbrellas with their broad caps and slender stalks.
The cap of the parasol mushroom starts out with an oval shape (see picture to the right) that has given the mushroom its Italian common name which translates as the drumstick mushroom, The caps are at first smooth and brown but soon the skin breaks up into brown scales and patches on a tan to off-white background with a solid brown central umbo. The white gills are free of the stalk, broad and close. The gills tend to darken with age. The tall thin stalk (up to 12 inches long and ½ inch thick) is quite fibrous. The stalk has brownish scales that give it a snake-like appearance. The ring left by the partial veil is a brown and white, thick double ring on the stalk that easily separates from the stem to become moveable. The flesh is thin and white with a sweet taste and a slight mushroomy odor. The spore print is white.
There are a two main look-alikes for the parasol mushroom: the shaggy parasol mushroom (Lepiota rhacodes) and the green-spored parasol (Chlorophyllum molybdites). The shaggy parasol is an excellently flavored mushroom (nutty) that has caused some “allergic” reactions particularly on the West Coast. Chlorophyllum molybdites is more likely to be confused with the shaggy parasol mushroom rather than the parasol as its stalk is thicker (up to one inch at the apex and equal to slightly broader at the base) like the stalk of the shaggy parasol mushroom. The parasol mushroom generally fruits in open woods and along trails, the Shaggy Parasol is found in groups or rings on ground near conifers but also occasionally in open fields or along roadsides. The green-spored parasol occurs scattered or in groups on lawns and other grassy places.
While the parasol has an excellent flavor and can be used in many recipes, I prefer the shaggy parasol mainly because the shaggy parasol is quite meaty whereas the parasol has rather thin flesh. There is an excellent recipe in The Complete Mushroom Book, The Quiet Hunt by Antonio Carluccio for fried parasol mushrooms with caps dipped into an egg, parsley, and Parmesan mixture then into homemade bread crumbs prior to sautéing. Fischer and Bessette in Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America, A Field to Kitchen Guide have a similar recipe with an egg, milk and Tabasco sauce wash and an herbed breadcrumb mix for coating then sautéing.