By Tom Nauman
First of all , I want to invite everyone to the Woodland Expo to be held at the Marshall-Putnam Fairgrounds on Route 29 at Henry, IL on Friday & Saturday, August 15 &16, 1997. It is sponsored by Prairie Rivers Resources Conservation & Development to promote alternative uses of our woodland areas. Yours truly will discuss mushrooms at 4:00 p.m. on Friday. Phone Prairie Rivers RC&D at 309-364-3979 for more information. It will be the family event of the summer
This month let's discuss the meadow mushroom (agaricus campestris) because this mushroom is common this time of year. You may be more familiar with its cultivated cousin (agaricus bisporus) otherwise known as the button mushroom, or portabello. The little mushroom you find on pizza is the same mushroom that's become the rage of restaurants, it's just been allowed to grow larger in size. The portabello is a windfall for the commercial growers because the weight increases with size and they also increase the price per pound.
Many area restaurants serve the portabello. My two favorites are Kenyon's in Lacon, IL and The American Bistro in Batavia, IL. Kenyon's serves them sauteed in a burgundy sauce covered with mozzarella and garnished with broccoli. Phone first if you're making a special trip because it's not always available. The American Bistro serves a portabello burger - a sandwich that has a huge mushroom cap instead of beef.
Back to the wild variety. The meadow mushroom (agaricus campestris) is a grassland mushroom and grows on lawns, golf courses, ball diamonds, cemeteries, and pastures. I feel a great need to make the following statement:
There are other similar mushrooms that grow in the same areas at the same time and
SOME OF THEM CAN KILL YOU!
Don't rely solely on the description given here. Check a field guide or two (or three). The cap is white to brownish, convex when young and becoming flat with maturity. The gills are crowded and free (not attached to the stalk) and are pink in color becoming chocolate to blackish brown. The stalk has a ring where the outer edges of the cap were once connected to the stalk. This mushroom does not have a volva. "Volva" is the term for the saclike cup or tissue that surrounds the base of the stalk and is found in some mushrooms, but not the meadow mushroom.
The meadow mushroom can grow individually, in clusters, groups, or even in rings. Its taste is similar but "nuttier" than the cultivated agaricus bisporus.
Remember, whenever trying a new type of mushroom to identify it in at least two different field guides. Then only consume a small portion. Wait at least 24 hours and if you have no ill effects you may consume more. Don't try more than one new variety at a time. Some mushrooms may affect different people in different ways. Even morels can cause allergic reactions to some individuals.
Please feel free to contact us with questions or comments. Especially if you have ideas or suggestions for future columns: Tom and Vicky Nauman, Morel Mania, RR1 - Box 42, Magnolia, IL 61336, Phone 309-364-3319, Fax 309-364-2960.