Glistening Ink Cap
Local name: Inkie.
Has also been called: Coprinus micaceus
Begin looking for the Glistening Inky Cap in early April when the weather is wet and warm. Big, sometimes huge, clumps of the mushroom appear everywhere from the base of stumps and underground wood. Like other Inky Cap species, this one digests itself quickly; Inkies just don’t last long where they grow, or in your basket. Get them home quickly, and cook them right away or you will end up with a pan of black goop. It will be edible, but not pretty.
With a melt-in-your mouth tenderness and delicious flavor, this is another one of my favorite edible mushrooms. Most of my fungus lover friends think otherwise. When they sauté the mushrooms they usually get a pan of flavorless, unappealing mush. That’s because they don’t know how to cook this Inky. If they first heat the butter or oil in the pan, then toss in the mushrooms, put on a lid, swirl the pan while cooking for several seconds, take the pan from the stove, and wait to remove the lid until the mushrooms are cool enough to eat, they would change their minds.
The common name “Glistening Ink Cap” refers to the appearance of tiny scales that cover the fresh caps of the mushroom. In sunlight, these scales seem to sparkle and glisten, if you stretch your imagination. These glittery scales help a beginner to identify the mushroom, but they usually come off in the first rain or after a day or two of growth. Other prominent features of the species are the dome-shaped, fragile, and tan to honey-brown caps with lines running from center to edge. It grows in dense clusters.
When I was a student I was a member of a cave exploring club. Often we would find this inky growing in the total darkness deep inside caves on woody debris washed in by floods. The caps always glistened brightly in the light of our lamps, because there was nothing in that isolated environment to disturb the scales.
IN A NUTSHELL: CLUMPS AND PATCHES OF SMALL TAN MUSHROMS WITH GLISTENING CAPS. QUICKLY DISSOLVE INTO A BLACK, PASTY GOOP. GROWS IN SUBURBAN AREAS IN LAWNS AND AROUND STUMPS AND TREES FROM EARLY APRIL ON.
CAP: ¾” up to 2” wide. Tan. Fragile. Bell or egg-shaped, closely surrounding the stem when young, then expanding, with lines extending from near the center of the cap to the edge. At first, covered with small particles that seem to glisten in the sun like little flakes of mica, like the kind of glitter we use for decorations on Christmas and other winter festivities. Soon self-digests into a black paste.
GILLS: Crowded together. White when young but becoming black and mushy with age.
SPORE PRINT: Dark brown, but it’s difficult to make a spore print because the gills liquefy so quickly.
STEM: 1” to 3” long, 1/8” to 1/4” thick. White. Hollow and smooth. Fragile.
GROWTH: Very common. Grows in patches and clumps around stumps, at the base of trees, and in grassy areas from buried wood. Prefers suburban areas. Fortunately, it can come on several times a year in the same place. April to October.
EDIBILITY: Edible and Excellent. Get it home quickly before it becomes an unappealing black, pasty goop. Avoid alcoholic beverages when you eat any Inky Cap mushroom species.
COOKING HINT: Sautee briefly, and covered to preserve the flavor.
COPYCATS: Coprinellus truncorum is nearly identical, but has a grayer cap center, and grows in smaller clusters. The much smaller, more delicate Coprinellus disseminatus has a translucent cap, and does not self-digest. Coprinopsis atramentaria is fatter and grayish-colored. Coprinopsis variegata is bigger, bulkier, has a strong odor, and a cap with scaly patches that flake away. All of these copycats are edible under certain conditions. Read about them in this and other guidebooks.
TIP: This mushroom is so tender that it breaks apart and crumbles when you harvest the clumps with a knife. Scissors work much better.