Fairy ring mushrooms have always pranced near the very top of the twinkly magic department of the wild mushroom world. Their manor of growing in flashy rings or arcs in the grass around a circle of dead grass, attracts much attention. Fairy ring mushrooms appear in lawns and meadows near peoples’ lives, or deaths in the case of their frequent appearance in cemeteries.
These peculiar rings have inspired no end of fanciful explanations. The name “fairy ring” offers the once earnestly held belief that fairies killed the grass by dancing wildly all night, creating the circle and leaving the ring of little mushrooms in their wake. The scorching breath of dragons, devils’ dance parties, and the more reasonable lightening strike, are all wacky explanations for the appearance of these delicious mushroom circles.
The less romantic reason for the circle of mushrooms with the dead grass in the center is that the underground mushroom body, the mycelium, has choked the grass to death by hijacking the nutrients there. As the mycelium grows outward from the center, the mushrooms fruit at the outer edge when the time is right. The right time is usually the warmth and rain brought by summer. These circles grow larger year after year. Some rings are guessed to be centuries old by their grand diameters. The girth of these circles reflects their age, like tree rings do with trees.
Many other mushrooms grow in arcs or rings. Be sure of your ID. The little mushroom’s flavor is rich and big. I place it in the uppermost ranks of fungal flavor. Some mistake the flavor for porcini. .
Fairy rings tend to be sandy. This is these great mushrooms’ downside. It’s also best to remove the tough stems. This can be done while harvesting. They often need serious rinsing. Make sure to swish and lift the mushrooms out of the water, leaving the sand to settle in the bottom of the bowl or basin. After washing, place on a towel to dry. They dry out quickly. You can place them inside a salad spinner with a dry towel and spin them together to hasten drying.
After finding a fairy ring, grab a pair of good scissors, drop to your knees, and begin to snip away and put into your basket. Because of the tough stems, you may want to harvest just the caps. Pluck out the cut grass blades as you go. Harvest the dried up looking mushrooms too. Withered up fairy rings mushroom seem to actually come back to life when rained upon.
Almost anything goes. They’re great in everything. The flavor is robust, yet I’m quite fond of them with poultry and pasta. Braising is a good idea if you’ve left any parts of the tough stems.
These are one of the best dried mushrooms in the cosmos. Mousseron (fairy rings) are greatly loved in Europe, yet most Americans are still strangers to this culinary treat. When rehydrating, the dried mushrooms need to be soaked and vigorously shaken in the water. Lift mushrooms from the water leaving the settled sand or debris in the bottom of the water. You may need to repeat this to make sure no sand remains.
These mushrooms have an excellent shelf life. They’ll keep in your cooler for 5-7 days. Cover with a damp cloth to avoid drying out.
These appear in late spring through the summer.