Come October, the shaggy ink cap arrives in grassland, fields and woodland. When these ‘lawyer’s wigs’ first appear, always in clumps, they’re like golf balls, half-buried in the grass, soon growing to ‘eggs’. Fully mature they have only the shortest of stems above ground level, the rest being inside the cap.
Now they’re ready to pick and hard to confuse with much anything else, thanks to their shaggy ‘coat’. (There is a common ink cap, which has no shag, and is mildly poisonous if eaten with alcohol!) Pick them before the edges of the cap start to turn black and inky. And try to eat them that day or the day after, as the inkiness sets in quite quickly.
It goes without saying that if you’re picking mushrooms to eat and you’re not totally sure about what you’re looking at, then leave well alone. If you’re interested in finding out more, then take a look here. And if you’re keen to get into foraging, the wild mushroom bible is Roger Philip’s book and app.
Shaggy ink caps have a delicious, slightly salty and (obviously) mushroomy taste, making great soup and omlettes. Like other gilled mushrooms, they give off a reasonable amount of water, so be prepared to up the heat to cook that off.