Infundibulicybe geotropa (previously clitocybe geotropa)
AKA. Trooping funnelcap, Giant Funnel, Monk’s Head, Rickstone Funnel Cap
- Identification – 4/5 – Large – fully grown caps can be easily 20cm in diameter; Strongly decurrent gills (running down the stem); Strongly funnel shaped when mature; Always a raised boss (bump) in the centre of the cap (you may have to feel for it); Inrolled margin (cap edge) on younger specimens; White spores; Sweet-but-sharp floral fragrance, sometimes with a hint of bitter almonds; Trooping (gregarious) – you will very seldom find one on its own. Similar species: clouded agaric, tawny funnel which is smaller and brown/tan coloured (both similarly edible, though not so meaty or tasty). When harvesting from field edges, you should also be aware of the deadly poisonous grassland toadstool fools funnel (clitocybe rivulosa/dealbata). It is only superficially similar, distinguished by its much smaller size, white powdery cap and habitat. It lacks the raised central umbo that makes trooping funnels so distinctive. There is a good description of fools funnel here.
- Edibility – 4/5 – A delicious, meaty mushroom. I would have scored them 5/5, but occasionally people struggle to digest them – eat only a small amount, well cooked first time to make sure you get on with them. The caps are truly excellent, outscoring many more widely eaten wild mushrooms in a blind tasting I did with chefs. Discard the tough stipes (or add to the stock pot). Caps can be preserved by dehydrating or cooking then freezing, and are excellent pickled.
- Distribution – 4/5 – Common
- Habitat – Among deciduous leaf litter in woods, wood edges and hedgerows. These are saprophytic fungi, so can be found anywhere with rich, rotting deciduous leaf litter.
- Ecological Role – Saprophytic, rotting down leaf litter and nutrient rich woodland/hedgerow soil. Older caps can play home and nursery to fungal gnat and fly larvae.
- Season – October – January
- Sustainable Harvesting – These are common and prolific mushrooms, providing a great source of local, low carbon cost food. Such is there size and numbers that thinning a troop will leave plenty for other creatures to enjoy. As saprophytic fungi tend to deplete finite food resources they must seek out new substrates through their airborne spores, so don’t pick immature caps. By the time they have opened into a full funnel shape, they will already have dropped millions of spores, and the fungi, if it could express a preference, would probably thank you for transporting its spore-producing structures around the forest in an open basket! As leaf rotters, its advisable to harvest by cutting, as pulling will bring large lumps of mycelium and substrate with them. Read more on cutting v picking wild mushrooms here . If you do harvest the stem buts with some mycelium still attached, these can be sandwiched between thin sheets of wet cardboard, kept cool and damp, then introduced to new potential substrates (eg. a compost heap) when the growing mycelium is clearly visible on the cardboard. While such strategies are not guaranteed to be successful, large saprophytic fungi such as trooping funnels offer much higher chances of success than most other fungi
Large, distinctive, common and delicious, these mushrooms tick every box for the novice forager. Like many saprophytes (rotting) fungi, they tend to appear towards the end of autumn in hedgerows and deciduous wood edges.
If all this sounds too good to be true…perhaps it is. A small proportion of people don’t get on with this mushroom (mild gastric upset). Personally, I think its such a delicious, meaty mushroom that its worth trying a small amount well cooked first time round. I’ve never met or heard of anyone who doesn’t get on with it. Such warnings tend to get over emphasised by nervous publishers. You don’t see bread cookbooks warning about gluten intolerance on every recipe. The stipes get tough so remove them and add to the stock pot.
Sear the caps as you would meat, until they start to caramelise, emphasising their rich umami.