Meadow Mushroom or Field Mushroom (Agaricus campestris)
Range: This species is found across North America, Europe, Asia, northern Africa, and New Zealand. It’s generally found in grassland and may grow alone or in a “fairy ring.”
Harvest Season: Spring, summer, or fall after rain.
Identifying Characteristics: The meadow mushroom has a white cap that’s 5 to 10 centimeters across. The cap is flat when the mushroom is mature. Underneath the cap, you’ll find pink gills in young mushrooms, reddish-brown in juvenile mushrooms, and dark brown gills in mature mushrooms. The stipe (stalk) is 3 to 10 centimeters tall. The flesh of the mushroom bruises to a reddish brown color and the spore print is dark brown.
Discard any specimens that do not have the distinct pink gills. Take extra caution with white mushroom species – there are fatal lookalikes.
Dangerous Lookalikes: This species is closely related to several species – some are deadly, others are edible. Amanita virosa is deadly and resembles the meadow mushroom when it’s young. Just one cap is enough to kill a person. The gills of the deadly Amanita virosa are white, as is the spore print. Amanita bisporigera and Amanita ocreata are also toxic lookalikes found in North America. A. ocreata can be identified by whitish gills and white to pinkish fruiting bodies. A. bisporigera also has white gills. These mushrooms are some of the most poisonous known mushrooms and cause liver failure. They’re collectively known as “destroying angel mushrooms.”
Other lookalikes include Agaricus xanthodermus, which causes gastronomical upset and can be identified by a yellow stain that appears in the stipe (stem) when cut, and Agaricus arvensis, which is also edible. Agaricus arvensis has white gills (like the deadly Amanita virosa) when young, but they become a dull chocolatey color in adulthood. Agaricus arvensis often smells similar to anise. These lookalikes highlight the reason that it’s so important to get help from an expert when learning to identify mushrooms!
Preparation: This mushroom tastes much like the button mushroom, but has a shorter shelf life. It’s tasty when sauteed, fried, or even raw on salads.