Good evening, friends,
This week we're learning about parasol mushrooms. In Europe this species is Macrolepiota procera, and that used to be the case over here, but DNA sequencing has revealed several different parasol species in northeastern North America. The differences aren't well understood so I'm just going to call this one Macrolepiota prominens. Regardless of taxonomy, I've seen parasols popping up in multiple places the last two weeks - both in Manitou and in Long Island - so it's time get a little more familiar with these tantalizing toadstools.
The common name "parasol" comes from the mushroom's umbrella-like shape. Conveniently for us, a comprehensive review of all the research regarding M. Procera was recently published in Poland and is chock full of tasty informational morsels (Reference 1). The information conveyed in the paper shouldn't be too different across the subspecies that we have here, but obviously further research is required to parse out the differences - if there even are any above the genetic level. The whole paper is an in-depth dive into the nutritional and medicinal benefits of parasols, so it's definitely worth the full-read if you find these mushrooms in your neck of the woods, but if you're strapped for time here’s a mere tasting:
These mushrooms are cultivated for food (they’re a sought after edible in the wild) and more than 93% of cultivated M. Procera was grown in China from 2018-2020 (the years in which the study was conducted). The second largest producer was Japan with between 1-1.5% of the global production during the same period of time. A stark gap between #1 and #2 which shows just how much China, and Eastern Asia in general, values their mushrooms.
These mushrooms are low in fat and calories since ~85% of the mushroom is water. However, of the dry weight, carbohydrates comprised 35-75% (highly variable dependent on how the mushroom was grown). Proteins comprised ~30% of parasols that were grown with "liquid potato nutrient solution" - from my understanding that's the nutritious liquid remaining after you boil your potatoes.
Different minerals concentrate in different parts of the mushroom. There is more Iron in the stipe than in the caps, but there is more Copper in the cap than in the stipe. This disparity in concentrations was consistent across the different minerals/elements they found in the mushrooms.
Several studies indicated antibiotic, anti-fungal, and anti-carcinogenic compounds within the mushrooms - if you're curious on the specific compounds you can find them in the paper. What I found most interesting, though, and what I hadn't seen in mushroom studies before was that these parasols have an antidepressant effect. They contain high levels of 5-hydroxytryptophan, a precursor to serotonin and methionine. They noted that cooking the mushroom decreased the levels by as much as half, unfortunately, and the paper goes into greater detail on which extraction/consumption methods are best for whichever purported benefits you seek.
M. prominens is saprobic - growing and obtaining nutrients from dead organic material. It's said to have an affinity for growing under conifers so perhaps it enjoys decomposing coniferous needles. The mushrooms grow summer through fall and have a global distribution in temperate regions - evidenced in the iNaturalist occurrence map below.
These mushrooms are tall! The stipe can stretch up to 20 centimeters, and it looks like it's at least that tall in the specimen below. The mushroom has a noticeable ring (annulus) that is part of the partial veil and protects the gills while the mushroom skies to such great heights. The cap then expands, breaking the partial veil, and can reach a width comparable to its height - but usually smaller. A similar species is Chlorophyllum molybdites, but our edible parasols have white spores and a white spore print while the toxic C. molybdites has a green spore print - often tinting the gills green. C. molybdites also lacks the characteristic brownish red scales that are usually present on the cap of parasols.
The cap can also look like a nipple. That'll put a bow on the hard-hitting science that is the Ecology section.
Terrestrial and Celestial
I wanted to make sure folks were aware of the New York Mycological Society’s first annual Fungus Festival taking place on Sunday, October 23rd at Randall’s Island from 11AM-3PM. I’ll be presenting on MushroomMonday and I look forward to seeing you all then :)
I also wanted to make sure I published this before sunset because tonight, for one night and one night only, Jupiter will be the closest it’s been to earth in 59 years and won't stray this close for another 109 years (a mere 367 million miles away, you can practically hit it with a football). It just so happens that Jupiter is also in “opposition” which means it is directly opposite the sun with us on earth situated linearly between the two. When in opposition planets will appear their largest and brightest, but that will be amplified tonight by Jupiter's unusually close proximity. The new moon was yesterday so Jupiter will be the brightest object in the sky, and if you use binoculars you should be able to make out some of the planetary details and perhaps even see the planet’s moons. Even if you read this on Tuesday you should be able to get good views in the evening.
Get out there and check it out,
1) Adamska I, Tokarczyk G. Possibilities of Using Macrolepiota procera in the Production of Prohealth Food and in Medicine. Int J Food Sci. 2022 May 6;2022:5773275. doi: 10.1155/2022/5773275. PMID: 35655802; PMCID: PMC9153936. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9153936/
2) Kuo, M. (2022, June). Macrolepiota procera. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/macrolepiota_procera.html