Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Prince of Summer

For me, the beginning of summer is marked by the emergence of Agaricus augustus, the Prince mushroom, which I generally start finding at the end of June. The Prince's domain extends over cities, suburbs, and rural roadsides. It's fond of parks and gardens. I found this specimen beside an old logging track, where it was growing alone. Sometimes they fruit in clumps, and they can be quite large, with caps the size of dinner plates, which means a single Prince can make a meal.

A distinguishing feature of the Prince is its unusually strong scent: the almondy smell of anise. Personally, I find this aroma to be overpowering at times, so I make sure not to cook the Prince in a savory recipe that will clash with the sweet, anise-like flavor. I found this out the hard way, once stuffing ginormous Prince caps with Italian sausage, breadcrumbs, sage, parsley, and egg; what should have been a stellar meal was compromised by the too-sweet flavor of the mushrooms. A red sauce over pasta is a better use of the Prince, with the chopped mushrooms obviating any need for a pinch of sugar.


Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

Oooh! Pretty mushroom! I don't know about this one. Does it have other names?

t-mos said...

i've heard mixed reviews on this one and your explanation of the flavor tells me why. i have never found or tried to find the prince, but i will keep my eye out this year, i love trying new shroomery! thanks for the post.

Langdon Cook said...

Not sure about other names. It's closely related to the supermarket 'shroom, Agaricus bisporus. Another relative of the Prince--with an even stronger flavor of anise--was once domesticated but lost out to A. bisporus. In any event, some folks absolutely crave the anise scent/flavor, and it's considered a choice variety in general--just not by me. Like t-mos says, finding new wild edibles is fun regardless.