Many varieties of edible mushrooms are available globally. In this article, you’ll learn about shaggy mane mushrooms, which are named for their distinctive appearance. Read on to find out everything you need to know about the shaggy mane mushroom's nutritional value, taste, health benefits, and more.
What Is a Shaggy Mane Mushroom?
Shaggy mane, also colloquially known as an inky cap or lawyer’s wig and scientifically known as Coprinus comatus, are common, edible mushrooms with many potential health benefits. They usually grow up to a height of 2 to 6 inches in places like parks, lawns, gravel roads, and garbage dumps.
These mushrooms have cylindrical white caps with upturned scales, giving them a shaggy or wig-like appearance. They have a white hollow stalk with tightly packed black gills filled with spores. They grow by themselves or in groups and appear bell-shaped when mature.
They appear in summer and fall, grow fast, and have a very short shelf-life of around 24 hours, after which point they start to melt into inky goo. This is called self-digestion, which starts in the gills at the edge of the cap and moves upwards. It causes the mushroom cap to open for spore dispersal, and the black spore-containing liquid spreads to the ground.
Shaggy Mane Mushroom Nutritional Value
Shaggy mane mushrooms are highly nutritious, with 100 grams of shaggy mane mushrooms providing 300 to 500 calories and plenty of dietary fiber. Every 100 grams contains 50 to 75 grams of carbohydrates, 12 to 30 grams of protein, and 1 to 5 grams of fat. Mushroom protein is easily digestible and often compared to meat.
These mushrooms also contain important minerals like phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium, in addition to nutrients like flavonoids.
What Are the Health Benefits of Shaggy Mane Mushrooms?
Shaggy mane mushrooms can:
1. Fight against cancer
Shaggy mushrooms may engage in anticancer activity. In test-tube studies, shaggy mane mushrooms killed T-cell leukemia cells. The water extract of these mushrooms also contains antitumor compounds that have been observed fighting against breast cancer in lab studies. Research is ongoing to confirm these findings among broader human populations.
2. Engage in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity
Antioxidants neutralize free radicals and protect the organs from oxidative stress and cell damage. Water and ethanol extracts of shaggy mane mushrooms contain many compounds like flavonoids with antioxidant activity.
The fermented extract of shaggy mane mushrooms demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity in mice. Such activity can reduce the health effects that accompany inflammation caused by alcohol consumption and inflammatory diseases.
3. Lower blood sugar levels
Shaggy mane mushrooms can regulate blood sugar levels. In animal studies, they decreased blood sugar levels in normal mice, as well as mice that were fed a high-carb diet. Mushrooms also reduced the levels of glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c), which is used to track long-term blood glucose levels in mice with high blood sugar levels. Additional studies on humans are needed to confirm these findings, though.
4. Improve brain function
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in normal brain function. Shaggy mane mushroom extract increases acetylcholine levels in the brain by blocking the enzyme that metabolizes it. This can help mitigate the symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s that involve acetylcholine deficiency.
5. Heal the liver
Based on another study of mice, shaggy mane mushrooms may have hepatoprotective abilities, including healing liver damage caused by drinking alcohol. This can help in alleviating the symptoms of liver conditions like fatty liver, hepatitis, and cirrhosis (liver failure).
6. Promote weight loss
Shaggy mane mushroom extract can prevent the development of cells that store body fat. In obese rats who were fed a high-fat diet, a mushroom extract helped to reduce their fat mass, resulting in significant weight loss. At the same time, good cholesterol (HDL) levels were increased and bad cholesterol (LDL) levels were decreased in these rats.
7. Protect against infection
Shaggy mane mushrooms have displayed antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal activity. This means that they can protect the body from infections caused by the following organisms:
- Bacteria like Salmonella, Staphylococcus, and E. Coli
- Fungi like Aspergillus and Penicillium
- Nematodes like Panagrellus redivivus
- Viruses like human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
What Are the Downsides of Shaggy Mane Mushrooms?
Shaggy mane mushrooms are generally safe if you eat them at the correct time, with proper cleaning and preparation, and in reasonable amounts. However, if you have dermatitis or any other inflammatory skin conditions, you may want to avoid them, as they could cause skin reactions.
Additionally, be careful when buying or picking these mushrooms, as they could be confused with similar-looking poisonous inky cap mushroom varieties like Coprinopsis atramentaria. It may be best to avoid wild specimens and instead seek this fungus on the market.
These mushrooms also contain coprine, which suppresses the liver enzymes that metabolize alcohol. This makes it difficult for your body to digest alcohol, resulting in flushing, nausea, headache, dizziness, and palpitations. Although these symptoms usually resolve within 6 hours, they could recur the next time you drink alcohol.
Speak to a doctor immediately if you experience any unusual symptoms after eating these mushrooms.
How to Cook Shaggy Mane Mushrooms
Because of their short lifespan, shaggy mane mushrooms cannot be stored easily. You need to either dry, freeze, or pickle these mushrooms within 4 to 6 hours of harvest to preserve them for longer periods. You can also store them in the fridge in a jar of cold water. The absence of oxygenated air in the jar may preserve the mushrooms.
While preparing a shaggy mane mushroom recipe, you could sauté the mushrooms before refrigerating them, which may help you store the mushrooms for 3 to 5 days. However, this can be tricky as they have high water content. Use a dry frying pan without any oil or butter to make them crispy or deep fry them in tempura.
Shaggy mane mushrooms are only edible when they are young and still retain their firm texture. Once they begin autodigestion and start oozing inky black liquid, you cannot eat them anymore. Their nutritional value decreases as these mushrooms age.
When they are fresh, shaggy mane mushrooms have a mild, earthy, umami flavor and a delicate, buttery texture. They’ll taste good if you cook them with olive oil, butter, or cheese.
Avoid pairing them with strong or intense flavors, though, as the mild shaggy mane mushroom taste might be lost in a sea of ingredients.
Shaggy mane mushrooms may be used to make soups, stews, sauces, and risottos.
The Bottom Line
The shaggy mushroom's taste and appearance are both distinctive. These are widespread edible mushrooms that grow in suburban areas and have several health benefits.
So, the next time you go on a culinary adventure, consider giving shaggy mane mushrooms a shot. Your body might just thank you.