St George's Mushroom
Cap: cm across Stem: cm in length, cm diameter
Stem: white but can discolour cream or slightly yellow when handled. The gambosa part of the scientific name refers to the shape of the stem, ‘club-footed’ as the base of the stem tends to be more swollen.
Flesh: white but discolours buff-yellow when handled, usually more obvious in the base of the stem.
Overall: a medium sized mushroom which occurs in the Spring, traditonally being found around St George’s Day (23rd April), it has a strongly ‘mealy’ smell and is white/cream coloured all over, turning browner as it ages and becomes past its best. Often occurs in rings and can be found in hedgerows, woodlands, porks and pastures right across the UK.
Gills: white to cream or buff with age, usually very narrow and crowded.
Cap: up to 15cm, younger specimens very rounded and become flatter with age, usually white at the start slowly becoming cream to buff with age. In dry weather the cap will crack and become more irregular.
Note: can often be found in dry periods and becomes smooth, but quickly becomes ‘greasy’ after a period of rain.
OVERALL: This wonderful iconic mushroom gets its name because it generally appear on St George’s Day, but mushrooms are wonderfully unpredictable and although they can be found growing on this day, I have just as often seen them in late March right through to June and even rarely in Autumn. You know it is a good eating mushroom when the French have given it a specific name and this one in France is known as Mousseron. The beauty of this white all over mushroom to me is based on a few things; it is a chunky mushroom that can be substantial so you only have to pick a few to get a meal worth. It commonly grows in parks, urban areas, gardens, hedgerows and fields so you generally stumble across them when you are not really looking out and about looking for mushrooms and when you do find them they usually grow in numbers (in 2013 my local park had around 1000 fruiting bodies and no one else bothered with them). They have a distinctive smell, mealy or that of wet flour, which once you have smelt it is very obvious. Big mushrooms with gills in spring are few and far between, most come out in the Autumn so if you find some large off white mushrooms at this time of year the odds are in your favour hugely it is this (obviously check all the identification features as nature does like surprises). When you find your own patch you will be able to re-visit the site every year and pick your St George’s Mushrooms, but a few species are worth double-checking your find against to be sure it is what it is include; the Entoloma family including Entoloma aprile (note the name for when it generally occurs!), though this family usually has clay-pink gills not white like St George’s Mushroom, the Inocybe family, these are generally smaller and usually have a distinctive nipple to the cap. There are a number of poisonous Clitocybes that grow in grassland too to make sure you have not picked, these are generally not as chunky as St George's Mushroom though. Use a field guide to ensure you have identified it correctly.
HABITAT: Usually found growing along hedgerows but can also be found in pasture and under mature trees, though more often that not in is encountered along path edges in parks and gardens in suburban areas. Usually can be found growing in rings.
DISTRIBUTION: Fairly common and a species one would expect to find without really looking in any given year. Many of the larger parks in Greater Manchester have St George's Mushrooms.
SEASON: Usually occurs around the 23rd April (hence the names) but can often be found in May and into June depending on the weather. We have two records from September, which is very unusual.
EDIBILITY: 4/5, we love this species, it is full of flavour and holds its texture well during cooking.
CAUTION: Often St George's Mushroom grow at the side of roads, mushrooms can absorb heavy metals and toxins from car exhaust fumes and so I would personally recommend picking this species, and indeed all mushrooms, away from roadsides.
EASE OF IDENTIFICATION: Relatively easy, the time of year most are out means there are fewer mushrooms to confuse it with, its strong mealey smell, totally white appearance, usually growing in rings and its firm structure are all indicators that you have St George's Mushroom. Ensure you have not picked one of the poisonous Clitocybe.
SPORE PRINT: White
SMELL: Stongly mealy, like wet flour, some say slightly like cucumber.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Other species to be aware of when picking this mushroom including Ivory Funnel (Clitocybe dealbata) a deadly poisonous species, Deadly Fibrecap (Inocybe erubescens) another deadly poisonous species