Fleshy, tawny, stewed with butter… Must be a mushroom out of history!

Co-worker and friend Kate Carone has dug up 19th century Oregonian articles that mention or focus on mushrooms in the Multnomah County Public Library archives. We are combing through and will post excerpts from our favorites periodically. This is the second post in our series Mushroom Out of History.
September 15, 1895. By Mr. W. F. Woodward, of Woodard [sic], Clarke & Co.


Two Choice Varieties of Mushrooms Around Portland


The Oregonian referred an anxious inquirer a few days since who wished to distinguish between the edible and poisonous varieties of mushrooms, to that old teat—eat them; if you die, they are poisonous, otherwise not—an unsatisfactory, though conclusive, method…

Without attempting to describe in detail the edible mushrooms found in this state, the writer would call attention to two varieties, most delicious and nourishing when properly prepared, and growing in profusion on the meadows and hillsides around Portland.

The meadow mushrooms (Agaricus campestris), as its name indicates, seeks the open country, and is easily distinguished. Dr. Thomas Taylor describes it thus: ‘The cap of the pilous is fleshy, white or tawny, sometimes brownish. In its prime the gills are a beautiful pink in color, ultimately becoming a deep brown which reaches nearly to the stem, which carries a well-marked white woolly ring or volva. The cap is usually more or less adorned with minute silky fibrils… It has enticing fragrance, and the white flesh is sometimes inclined to change to pink when broken. It grows in open grassy places in fields and rich pastures, but never in thick woods.’

It may be prepared for the table by stewing with butter, spice, parsley, sweet herbs, salt and pepper, and a little pure lemon juice. It makes a fine catsup, and cut up in small pieces and stewed with butter makes an agreeable adjunct to a steak or mutton chop…

As brought to our local markets, mushrooms rarely present an inviting appearance; old and wormy ones are mixed with immature buttons—dirt, mold and foreign matter form a large percentage; nevertheless, there is always a brisk demand for them at a remunerative price for gatherer and dealer. Those, however, who wish to enjoy them in all their freshness and purity should arise before the sun and with basket and knife seek them in the open meadows and highway. There is health, pleasure and a most delicate dish for its reward.

[Image from Trattatello popolare sui funghi, Pavia: premiata tipografia fratelli Fusi, 1887 (BioDiv Library). This is not the mushroom mentioned in the Oregonian article.]

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