This is the perfect beginner’s mushroom – unmistakeable and delicious . . .
Most Britons are scared of toadstools, terrified of making a fatal mistake, but the parasol (Macrolepiota procera) is the perfect entry to the gastronomic paradise of wild fungi. This is one of Britain’s most delicious and distinctive mushrooms: common, unmistakeable and superb to eat.
Parasols grow in late summer and early autumn in unimproved pasture across the country (golf courses can also yield rich rewards).
They first emerge like drumsticks – a rounded head on a tall stalk – but the top soon unfurls to resemble a frilly Edwardian umbrella. Thanks to the size (they stand up to 40 cm tall with a 30 cm cap), they are conspicuous from a distance. This visibility is only increased by their social nature – they often grow in large clusters up to 20 or 30 strong.
Parasols dry well, but lose some of their wonderfully delicate flavour in the process. Instead think of this as the perfect breakfast mushroom after an early morning foray. As you return home, nostrils full of mists and mellow fruitfulness, reward your industry immediately by discarding the fibrous stalk, pulling the cap into wedges and frying lightly in butter. Serve on toast with a dash of lemon and a crunch of black pepper.