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Agaricus augustus or Agaricus subrufescens
The Prince or Almond Mushroom?
I have been picking wild mushrooms since 1974. Since around that time I have found what I believe to be 'The Prince' on two occasions. Once in 1984 and this year 2012, on my birthday September 29. What a great birthday present because this time I had a chance to take photographs of them. Plus McDonald's had free coffee that day. You can't ask for more than that.
In most of the mushroom books I have it's stated that 'The Prince' is a Westerly mushroom - meaning The Rockies and California type West. Some of the books say 'scattered' in North America. A couple of books say 'rare' or 'infrequent' in the East.
Over the years, there have been scattered reports, allegedly of 'The Prince', having been found in the east. Many mushroom experts ( mycologists ) dismiss these reports and attribute sightings of the 'The Prince' to a look-a-like, also a great edible, Agaricus subrufescens ( Almond Mushroom ).
The look-a-like however is very strongly flavored of almond extract, apparently much more than 'The Prince'.
Also, the look-a-like grows in very rich soil or manured areas whereas
'The Prince' likes disturbed soil, parks, along paths and trails.
Because they look so much alike it requires someone that really knows their stuff when it comes to Agaricus. It also helps to have access to both varieties to be able to see what differences there might be. I don't get out west so what may appear to be 'The Prince' out there may be the same one that I have run across on two occasions - or not.
To confound things even further there is another look-a-like - 'The Princess' - Agaricus perobscurus - which is also a choice edible but known only in California. It is much more subtle with regard to almond flavor and less likely to discolor to yellow where cut or bruised. Plus the stem is scaly but not as much as 'The Prince'. I actually believe that those I found twice sound more like The Princess rather than The Prince but like I said - it is supposed to be known only in California.
*** I kept the spores so if someone wants some email me and you can have a few to investigate.
Read on and I'll describe the one I found and you can research it further if you want.
Since they are that close in characteristics and appearance AND because both are considered choice edibles I won't fret over whether I actually found 'The Prince' or not.
They are both 'Princes' as far as I am concerned.
So keep alert, you never know when the conditions are just right for a few of these to pop up somewhere.
I almost did not find these few pictured below.
I was driving into the county park and noticed a few mushrooms growing in the grass under a tall old spruce. Initially they looked to be some type of brownish Amanita that I have seen growing in that area in the past so I just kept going and then the thought hit me that I better get out and check them just to be sure. You can imagine my surprise when I got to within ten feet and the recognition program started kicking in. If I did not have such a sore arthritic knee I would have jumped for joy.
The caps are brownish streaked with scales on a white to cream colored base. The general characterization is that this is a big mushroom.
Buttons in fact, are beautiful for stuffing having a size close to a tennis ball.
'The Prince' and the look-a-like are supposed to have an almond smell if you crush a bit of the flesh and take a whiff. I have a problem with smells though so all I can say is it has a definite aroma.
I would have never made it through mycology school.
The O.A.T.S. 101 course ( odors, aromas, tastes & smells ) would have been my downfall.
I believe I have a brain that is devoid of the 'smell memory' lobe. I have eaten hundreds, probably thousands of almonds, but I swear I do not remember what almonds smell like. In fact, I am not convinced that almonds have an aroma. Taste yes, aroma not. Give me a mushroom that is supposed to smell like almonds and i'll never know it by smelling it. I never smelled almond extract so I can not relate.
Same with chlorine. I had a big, above ground, swimming pool for 10 years. I used chlorine regularly but I can not recognize the smell unless i'm messing with the chlorine or open the HTH barrel.
Mushroom books are full of characterizations with regard to odor / aroma but I do not remember those smells so those descriptives do me no good.
A great example is the characterization of golden chanterelles as having an apricot flavor or aroma.
I would never know it even though I love and eat apricots. I can assert that golden chanterelles taste great but I can not detect any apricot in them. Another example - the nutty taste of King Boletus.
Hey, I love King Boletus. I think they are absolutely great tasting, but nutty? I can't see it!
The Prince I have found has a definite aroma. The smell is familiar. But I won't go as far as to say almonds. It's my defective 'smell memory' though that keeps me from saying so.
The Prince I have found has a very definite taste when cooked. There is very agreeable sweet aftertaste that has a bit of almond - ok I said it - flavor. You really have to think about it to determine it's almond though - at least for me. Definitely NOT overpowering.
I really like them - a lot.
I can't get too excited though because I find them every 28 years so I won't get my next small batch until I'm 92. I'll probably never know for sure whether I have eaten 'The Prince' or the 'Almond Mushroom' since specimens are so infrequent.
The stalk / stem is shaggy below the veil, Above the veil, that is, between the veil or veil remnants to it's attachment to the cap the stem is smooth.
The photo below shows the stems removed from the cap attachment but still having some veil tissue clinging to it. The upper portion of the stem can be seen as being smooth and the area below the veil as shaggy.
The veil is substantial. Very well made - not flimsy. There are brownish scales on the veil with the same coloring as the cap surface. You could describe it as being a continuation of the color theme of the cap as it continues right over the rounded cap margin and onto the veil.
The stem grows deeply into the ground. There is no volva on the stem bottom.
The flesh of the cap and stalk / stem is white to creamish. Thick and substantial. There may be some amber colored discoloration where handled - or not. Mostly the stuff I handled had no discoloration where handled and diced up.
The gills are pale flesh colored tending toward pinkish when young turning to pinkish-brown and then eventually to dark brown.
The gills are not attached to the stalk. There is a definite clear area between the stalk and gills.
As the cap matures the appearance is of a flatten disc. The gills are then dark chocalate brown.
Stem, when still young such as in the unopened button stage, is as good as the cap, as long as not riddled with fly larvae.
In age the stalk is tough.
From what is written in my many mushroom books this mushroom is readily attacked by fly larva. However, on the two occasions that I have found a couple of small groups there was not a larva to be found - not one. Probably because on both occasions it was after a brief period of cold ( possible frost warnings ) and wet days then a couple of warm days. Maybe the cold killed off some of the flies.
Man I love these. I can't wait - until 2040 - for some more.
Weather conditions: Wet. Late September. Some cold nights then some warm days. Not overly hot and not overly wet.
Best Practice: Make sure the stem grows deep into the ground and has no volva, the spore print is dark brown and the gills are tending toward pinkish-cream to light pinkish-brown when young and dark brown when more mature.
Agaricus augustus - A/K/A - The Prince. Maybe actually A. subrufescens - AKA - Almond Mushroom.
DATE - Late September. I am only saying September based on my experience. Supposedly it could be Spring, Summer and/ or early Fall.
Weather conditions: The last couple of weeks in September were wet. Not rain every day but maybe, on average, every two days.
Temperatures were in the 60's to mid 70's after there had been frost warning's for certain areas around where I live.
FOUND - The few ( 6 ) I found were in a county park setting, in the grass, very close to some tall Norway Spruce.
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