The shaggy mane, also known as a lawyer's wig, is a type of edible mushroom found in many parts of the world. The mushroom has a very distinctive appearance along with a series of clear identifying features that make it popular with mushroom hunters. The shaggy mane can be used in a variety of cooked dishes, including soups and stews, because the fungus is quite sturdy. Some people have reported an adverse reaction when consuming shaggy manes with alcohol, so use caution.
Scientifically, the shaggy mane is known as Coprinus comatus. It is among a family of inky gilled mushrooms which have a dark spore print when young and degrade into ink as they age. Older shaggy manes can be readily identified by the appearance of the gills, which curl up and appear to be bleeding into ink. Unfortunately, a shaggy mane is not very tasty at this stage. The mushroom is most flavorful when consumed in the button stage, before the gills have begun to curl up.
In button stage, the shaggy mane can reach of height of almost three inches (six centimeters). The mushroom resembles a wig on a stand due to the scaly growth on the outside of the mushroom which gives it a hairy appearance. As the mushroom gets older, the gills will slowly curl further away from the stem and turn black, making identification of the mushroom very easy. For this reason, people who seek shaggy manes to eat will often keep a close eye on a patch of older mushrooms, looking for younger edible buttons to harvest.
The shaggy mane prefers disturbed soil and wood chips. The mushrooms often spring up out of lawns or appear along road sides. In addition to appearing all over North America, the shaggy mane can be found in many parts of Europe as well. The mushrooms tend to proliferate after a hard rain, and often grow in huge colonies.
The shaggy mane has a texture which many cooks say reminds them of fish. For this reason, the mushroom is sometimes used at vegetarian dinners to approximate the feel of fish, and can be steamed or baked after being marinated in a variety of sauces. Because of the high moisture content, the mushroom does not fare well in the saute pan, although it does well in soups, stews, and sauces. The flavor of the shaggy mane is delicate and woodslike, making it very popular with some diners.