I was doing some research and maintenance today when I realised that I didn’t have a blog entry for this mushroom, though it is a very common one that I have been eating for 30 years. Perhaps I accidentally deleted it. It used to be known as Volvariella speciosa until quite recently when some DNA studies indicated that it should be placed in a new grouping.
If you are driving around Perth in wintertime, you will see this everywhere growing on roadside woodchip mulch. It also occurs on waste ground. It is not generally a good idea to eat mushrooms that grow by roadsides as they can accumulate various toxins. However, these are so widespread that it should be possible locate some that are growing in a safe spot.
One of the important things to know about this species is that it looks very similar to an Amanita. On the east coast, people have died after picking and eating the deadly Amanita phalloides, mistaking them for Volvariella volvaceae, the paddy straw mushroom of Southeast Asia and Queensland. It would be very easy to make a similar fatal mistake here in the West, confusing Volvopluteus with other species of Amanita. I have seen the two growing very close together and they are nearly impossible to tell apart. It is only when the mushroom reaches maturity and the rusty orange gills become evident that Volvopluteus becomes easy to identify.
Now for some pictures. I had to recover these from an old computer in the shed that I first bought in 2003. That was an interesting exercise in itself, requiring removal of the hard drive and taking it to the computer shop.
This first picture shows the mushroom just as it is emerging. It looks just like the hard boiled egg that I have placed beside it.
As it grows, it begins to take on some shape. You can clearly see the sac or volva at the base.
At maturity, it takes on a classic shape.
The gills, which are white at first, take on a rusty orange colour at maturity. It is at this stage that identification is most accurate.
This mushroom has an unusual and distinctive taste. I often cook it in a sauce that I add to silverbeet and serve it with roast chicken.
All of my numerous attempts to cultivate this mushroom have failed, resulting in a slimy bacterial looking mess. It is possible, as others have done it, so I will give it another go next time I find it, with my more recently installed laminar flow hood.