Fairy ring mushrooms
The last couple weeks have been rainy and moderate with temperatures in the mid to upper 40s. We've had a day or two where the sun peeked through and the temps climbed into the 50s, but each morning when I've gone out to feed the ducks I've looked at the sky and wondered if today was the day we'd get our first good snow.
While working in the yard to clean things up before everything gets covered with snow (a job that the sensible part of me thinks is entirely ridiculous, but which my OCD side nevertheless frets over) I discovered a patch of scattered fairy ring mushrooms, Marasmius oreades, hiding behind the beehive at the edge of the pines in the front of the house.
Unless I get lucky and find some late season maitaki this might be the last hurrah for edible mushrooms for the year. Coming upon the fairy rings was a lovely little surprise and made for a pleasant spur-of-the-moment breakfast for my wife and me.
Fairy Ring mushrooms are a common lawn mushroom and may appear from spring through autumn. They're small, 1" to 3" tall and an inch or two wide at the cap. The caps are light tan or cream-colored, bell shaped when young, but becoming more planar as they age and often displaying a pronounced central bump or "umbo" on top, making them look kind of like tiny, wide-brimmed hats. The gills are generally a little lighter in color than the cap, and are free, or unattached from the stalk (or, as most books indicate, only slightly attached...but I've not seen any yet that are attached). The spore print is white or cream colored.
The stalk is a major identifying feature of the fairy mushroom. It is very slender, shows no significant variation in diameter from top to bottom, and no ring, volva or veil. The real telling feature of the stalk, though, is its resiliency. It's a tough, fibrous little bugger, not easily broken or snapped in two, able to be bent and twisted with some force. The character of the stalk is important to remember in properly identifying fairy ring mushrooms.
Given what I just said about the stalk of the fairy mushroom it might be obvious that it is the cap that is the desired edible part of the fungi. When you collect them use a scissors and just snip the caps off. They are also a lightly fragrant mushroom, especially whilst being sauteed in butter. There's an almost herbal, very subtly floral mushroomy scent to them. They are fantastic.
Oh, and they may be about the easiest and most favorable mushroom to dry for long-term storage.
Unfortunately, there weren't enough in the yard this day to bother drying. There were just enough to fill an omelet for breakfast. And I'm quite happy with that.