Good evening, friends,
This week’s mushroom is the Wine-cap Stropharia (Stropharia rugosoannulata). I found these back in the fall growing right out of woodchips on a cross country trail at the local high school. Edible and easily cultivated, these robust mushrooms are about to start popping up out of the ground here in the northeast so this is a good fungus for us to learn.
The wine-cap is a widely cultivated and widely consumed mushroom. It’s allegedly in the “top ten of internationally traded mushrooms” - a claim I saw on several websites but couldn’t substantiate as I couldn’t find mushroom imports/exports by species. However, I did stumble upon the USDA database for the amount (in dollars) of mushrooms imported into the country. It’s interesting to see the imports of fresh mushrooms has increased by ~67% over the past five years (I imagine domestic production follows a similar trend), and it’s also fun to see the quantity of truffles that pour into the country in the fall.
A study out of China showed that cultivating wine-caps directly on the forest floor improved the health of the soil by increasing the amount of organic matter, nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients within the soil. What was interesting about the study is that the soil benefited when the area was cultivated on an every other year basis. Interestingly, they found cultivation just once or cultivation every year depleted the soil of nutrients.
The cultivation methods were rather intense. S. rugosoannulata mycelium growing in a special medium (rice husks made up almost half of said medium) would be applied to the soil followed by a layer of straw, a black plastic tarp, and micro misters on scheduled watering timers. That’s much more effort and disturbance than just taking some S. rugosoannulata spawn and mixing it into wood chip trails and garden beds. That’s all you need to do to cultivate edible mushrooms and it’s something we teach you how to do at our Catskill Fungi retreat coming up in June.
S. rugosoannulata is saprobic, decomposing organic matter in the soil which makes certain minerals and nutrients more available for the rest of the ecosystem. The mushrooms grow spring through fall and have a cosmopolitan distribution (they can basically be found wherever mulch/woodchips can be found). The mushrooms have burgundy colored caps that fade to tan with age so color is not the most reliable identifying characteristic. They can fruit individually but I typically see them grow in large clusters.
The mushroom below, second from the left, has the distinct crown-shaped annulus (another name for the mushroom is the “king stropharia”). The annulus (a remnant of the partial veil that protected the gills) not only is shaped like a crown when seen from below, it also has a grooved upper surface that resembles the gills of the mushroom. This distinct annulus is a unique identifier for the species but, as you see below, isn’t always present on the mushroom. The spores are a dark purple, nearly black, that tint the gills the same color.
Central Park Morel
While I may not have seen any fresh mushrooms worth note recently (end of winter and beginning of spring is the slowest time of the year for mushrooms in the northeast), that’s no longer the case down in Central Park. My former manager, Eric, sent me the photo below of a young morel (perhaps Morchella angusticeps) that owl-eyed Lisa found on its side near woodchips (she also once found Eric’s glasses in leaf litter after he left them in the woods). If you’re in the city go check your nearest park to see if you can find one of these springtime fancies. Start by looking near ash and elm trees, in wetland areas, and in woodchips. You can also check this map to see if morels are growing in your area. Have some fun and don’t eat things you’re not sure about.
Hope everyone had a happy Passover, Easter, or whatever you get up to,
1) Kuo, M. (2017, December). Stropharia rugosoannulata. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/stropharia_rugosoannulata.html
2) Gong S, Chen C, Zhu J, Qi G, Jiang S. Effects of wine-cap Stropharia cultivation on soil nutrients and bacterial communities in forestlands of northern China. PeerJ. 2018 Oct 9;6:e5741. doi: 10.7717/peerj.5741. PMID: 30324022; PMCID: PMC6183509.