Elite life



   Agaricus is a large and important genus of mushrooms containing both edible and poisonous species, with possibly over 300 members worldwide. This genus includes some very good edibles (the common "button mushroom" sold in grocery stores is Agaricus bisporus), and the Field mushroom (Agaricus campestris) the dominant cultivated mushrooms of the West. The mushrooms in Agaricus are terrestrial saprobes, and have caps that are not brightly colored. At maturity the gills are free or almost free from the stem, and are brown to chocolate brown. The stem breaks away cleanly from the cap. Agaricus species have a partial veil which often forms a ring on the stem. The spore print is dark brown. The Agaricus family includes many fleshy and tasty looking mushrooms, but the good ones and bad ones often grow in the same areas and are very difficult to distinguish from each other.


Button Mushroom (Agaricus bisporus)

   Agaricus bisporus is well known to mycophagists as the common "button mushroom" of commerce in America and Europe. Solitary, scattered to gregarious near manure piles, in grass or duff under conifers, especially Monterey Cypress; fruiting all months of the year when moisture is available except mid-winter.
   Cap: 3-16 cm, convex to broadly convex or nearly flat in age; dry; smooth or with pressed-down fibers or small scales; white in some varieties, brown in others.
   Gills: Free from the stem; close; pinkish to pinkish brown at first, becoming dark brown to blackish.
   Stem: 2-8 cm long; 1-3 cm. thick; sturdy; more or less equal; smooth or with small scales below the ring; white, often bruising brownish; with a ring that sometimes disappears in maturity.
   Flesh: White and firm; usually bruising and staining brownish.

Field Mushroom, Meadow Mushroom (Agaricus campestris)

   The meadow mushroom, Agaricus campestris, is a beautiful white edible. In most areas it is a fall mushroom and, as its common and Latin names suggest, it comes up in meadows, fields, and grassy areas, after rains. It is recognized by its habitat, its pink gills (covered up by a thin white membrane when the mushroom is young) which become chocolate brown as the mushroom matures, its quickly collapsing white ring, and the fact that it does not discolor yellow when bruised.
   Cap: 3 to 10 cm in diameter, the cap is creamy white, sometimes developing small scales as it matures. Usually the margin remains down-turned or slightly in-rolled even when the cap has expanded fully. The thick flesh is white, sometimes turning slightly pink when cut but never staining yellow.
   Gills: Deep pink at first, the free crowded gills turn dark brown and eventually almost black as the fruit body matures. Old specimens may become infested by maggots, which enter the cap flesh via the gills. Careful inspection is necessary, and it is inadvisable to include very old specimens in collections intended for food.

   Stipe: 3 to 10 cm tall and 1 to 2 cm in diameter, the white stem is smooth above the single, delicate ring and somewhat scaly below. It is more or less parallel and does not turn yellow when cut. The ring itself is ephemeral, and by the time the fruit body is fully developed there is rarely much evidence of a ring remaining.
   Spore print: Deep chocolate brown.

Himematsutake (Agaricus subrufescens, Agaricus blazei)

   Agaricus subrufescens was first described by the American botanist Charles Horton Peck in 1893. Agaricus subrufescens is used in oncological therapy, mainly in Japan and California. It has been commercially cultivated in Asia and South America since 1993. This species is an excellent edible, with a strong almond and faintly sweet taste.  It is common in eastern North America, rare in California, but widespread on the island of Hawai`i in compost piles and well-fertilized mulch.  Agaricus subrufescens  is easily recognized by the pinkish brown, minutely fibrillose pileus, smooth white stipe with a persistent membranous annulus, a faint yellow staining reaction where bruised, a strong almond odor, and the urban habitat.
   Cap: 7-25 cm; round, sometimes shaped like a marshmallow when young, becoming convex to nearly flat; surface dry, when young covered with fine matted fibrils which break up into tiny scales, except at the center; fibrils pallid, buff, pale brown, or pinkish-brown; scales becoming darker brown or reddish with age; background color white to pinkish-buff; sometimes yellowing with age or when bruised.
   Gills: Free from the stem; close; whitish when young, becoming pinkish, then reddish brown, and eventually dark chocolate brown.
   Stem: 5-15 cm long; 1-4 cm thick; equal or enlarged at base; with a thick membranous partial veil which has cottony patches on the underside and which forms a high, skirt-like ring; white to pinkish above the ring; smooth or with fibrils or scales below; base often staining yellow with age or when bruised (but the flesh inside does not stain bright yellow when cut); base often with mycelial threads attached.

The Prince (Agaricus augustus)

   The Prince fruits during the warm months of the year mainly in parks and gardens, most common along the coast after periods of foggy weather. It makes execellent eating. The yellow-brown scaly cap, sweet odor, blackish, free gills make it a distinctive species. Found in America, Europe, Australia.
   The cap is 6-32 cm broad, convex expanding to plane; surface dry with yellow-brown to brown scales, bruising yellow in age, staining yellow slowly with KOH; Flesh thick, odor sweet, anise or almond-like. Gills are close, free, pale at first, then blackish-brown at maturity. The stipe is 10-37 cm long, up to 6 cm thick, equal to enlarged at base, frequently buried; smooth above ring, scaly below; veil with cottony patches, later becoming membranous, forming a skirt-like annulus. Spores are 7.5-10.5 x 5-6.5 μm, elliptical and smooth. Spore print chocolate-brown.


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