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What is Not to Love About The Prince? (by )

Mushroom of the Month: June, 2014

Agaricus augustus by Drew Just when you thought the mushroom season was over,  “The Prince” may appear, providing mushroom enthusiasts a culinary bounty.  Tall, stately, golden-hued and perfumed like almond paste, this royal-sized mushroom often fruits in warm weather. Mature specimens are thick and meaty growing as broad as a dinner plate.  So what is not to love about Agaricus augustus, commonly known as “The Prince”?  Coming upon the Prince unexpectedly can be an experience to remember.


FFSC members have some stories to tell:

“My first encounter with the Prince led to some gender confusion.  Temperatures were in the 70’s.  It was steamy after a solid rain and a warming trend in March.  There they were, deep in the forest near UCSC, all luminescent gold and rising from the shade in redwood duff and tanbark leaves. I gasped and my heart jumped.  A. perobscurus by Susan Labiste Could it be I had encountered “The Prince”?  Who else could it be, so regal, so substantial, so golden, and in my hand so sweetly almond-scented.  I gathered them greedily, gratefully and utterly besotted.  But as this was a first encounter I decided to check this royal out with someone who knew it better than myself.  It turned out that my “Prince” was a “Princess” (A. perobscurus).  I was crestfallen… but in the pan my Princesses were every bit the culinary royal-equal to The Prince.”


A. augustus by V. Berthelsdorf “On May 27th, while hiking in the forests surrounding the Land of the Medicine Buddha Retreat Center, I spotted a group of A.augustus. I was quite surprised to find these delightful mushrooms just off a hiking trail, yet there they were, at the base of a small cliff, underneath large redwoods. The dry summer weather caught me unprepared; I generally carry specimen bags with me while looking for mushrooms, but as I was taking a relaxed hike and enjoying the quiet, I did not have anything to put them in.  I left them beside the trail for someone else to enjoy...”


A. augustus by Tim Sage “I have picked lots of Agaricus augustus over the years, some very large, some small, but one episode stands out above the rest. A group of us travelled to Monterey to do a bike ride along the coast. We started our ride at the Asilomar conference center, where there is good parking and easy access to the coastal bike trail. I was quicker unloading my bike than the rest of the group so I jumped on and rode around a bit while waiting. Less than a block from our cars, I noticed an extremely large cluster of mushrooms along the side of the road. Upon inspection, it turned out to be a true cespitose cluster of "The Prince". That is a most unusual fruiting formation for that species. The individual mushrooms were all unopened buttons and each was at least as large as a softball. The whole cluster was about 2 feet across. I recall that there were 16 caps in the cluster while others recall even more. No matter what the count, everyone went home with a lot of tasty mushrooms to cook. As I recall, I fixed my share in a most yummy sauce that evening.”


The first thing one notices when encountering a “Prince” is the size.  Twenty-two centimeters and larger in diameter is not uncommon.  The cap is marshmallow-shaped before it is fully expanded, then becomes domed to flat or uplifted.  The flesh is thick.  The surface of the cap has many fibrillose scales, brown or golden-brown in color against a white background.  It has a large, skirt-like annulus.  The stem is often buried deep in the duff.  Look for prominent raised fibrils below the annulus, giving a fluffy look to the stipe.  The sweet scent of almonds should be discernable.  When the cap is rubbed, it will slowly discolor to a golden yellow. (Please see pg 337-338 in David Arora’s Mushrooms Demystified for a more complete list of characteristics.) Be sure your “Prince” has no cup or volva.  The base should not be bulbous, nor should the base have ridge-like rings or signs of any universal veil remnants.

A. augustus by Christian Schwarz The Prince is a gilled mushroom.  True to its genus, Agaricus, the mature gills are chocolate-brown as the spores mature.  However, like most agarics, gill color in the button stage is pale.  And "The Prince” is slow to change color.  Though this mushroom is distinctive, it is possible to mistake a non-edible for this prize.  When A. augustus is at its best for the table the gill color is still a buffy-white.  This might cause some confusion, as many mushrooms, including some very toxic mushrooms, have white or nearly white gills.  Be sure all identifying characteristics are present, and take your specimen to an expert for a back-up ID if this is a new species for you.

Remember: When in doubt, throw it out!