One of the most strikingly individual of all the mushrooms, and one which could not possibly be confounded with any other kind, is the example pictured in Plate 33. With this mere portrait as our guide, we might safely classify our specimen - at least, as to its genus; and inasmuch as no one of the group is poisonous, and all are edible with varying degrees of esculence, we can make no mistake even in our ventures as amateur mycophagists. When, therefore, we find a fungus with such a peculiar, irregularly fluted and hollowed stem, itself hollow within, or tubular, and surmounted with a rather thin, flexible, wavy cap, resembling our illustration, we may know that we have a specimen of Helvella. If this example happens to be creamy above and ochrecolored beneath, it is the Helvella crispa of our Plate. The specimen here shown is somewhat larger than in nature. Other species are differently formed and colored, one of them having the cap dark ash-colored or even black. There are three species occasionally met with, of which the first, Helvella crispa, is the most common and perhaps the most delectable.

Pileus: Two to three inches in diameter; wavy or curled, reflexed at edges, often puckered towards centre; white or pale creamy; somewhat leathery in texture in older specimens.

Spore surface: On underside of cap, ochraceous.

Stem: White, more or less furrowed with vertical hollows.

Taste: Similar to Morel, to which it is closely allied.

Habitat: Woods.

Season: Summer and autumn.

Plate XXXIII Helvella Crispa.

Plate XXXIII Helvella Crispa.

Specific Characters

The peculiar texture of these mushrooms permits of their ready desiccation, and in Britain and on the Continent they are commonly strung on strings and dried for future use, in which condition they have been compared to dried "wash-leather" in texture. The famous aristocratic Morel (Mor-chella esculenta), already described, so prized as food in Europe, and to which the Helvella is closely allied, has a similar irregular, pitted, hollowed, and netted surface over its entire conical or globular gray cap, and the same texture. Most competent judges claim that the delicious Morel possesses no advantages over the more plebeian Helvella as a delicacy for the table. The flavor is identical, and the other qualities of the two mushrooms make them equally desirable.

The readiness with which they may be dried, and thus kept indefinitely, is another distinct advantage which the Morels and Helvellas possess over the ordinary gilled Agarics, many of which must be gathered in their young prime and immediately eaten.

There are numerous ways of serving these fungi, among which is the common method of frying with butter or oil, and variously seasoning with onion, Dried mushrooms, garlic, herbs, etc. , according to taste, and serving on toast, or with crisped bread-crumbs. Our chapter on recipes will suggest other more elaborate methods.