The "Horse" Mushroom. A Huge Variety

It is plainly an Agaric related to the Campestris, and from the fact of its having"pink gills darker in older specimens "I suspect it to be simply another local masquerade of this same Campestris, which suspicion, by the receipt of further data, I hope soon to verify.

This other and larger variety, so readily confounded with the Campestris, demands further and more detailed description. It may frequently be found growing in company with the former, and so closely do the two kinds merge in specimens of equal size that it is often a puzzle to separate the species. Indeed, as already mentioned by some mycologists, the larger form is considered merely as a variety of the Campestris. The accompanying plate (5) may well serve as a portrait of this species also. It frequents the same localities as the former, and is occasionally seen crowded in clusters of crescent shape, or in scattered rings, while its size is generally conspicuous, the solid cream-colored or white cap often expanding to the diameter of seven inches. Its substance discolors to yellowish brown on being bruised.

Description Of Arvensis

The stem is less solid than in Campestris, often with a pithlike or even hollow heart. The gills are of unequal length, as in the former species, though of much the same tints of pink and brown and black, though more dingy in the lighter shades. The veil is often more conspicuous, and occasionally appears to be double, the outer or lower more or less ragged or split into a fringe at the edge. The species can hardly be mistaken for any poisonous variety, and, once recognized, its generous size, frequent profusion, and savory qualities make it a tempting quest to the epicure, being considered by many as superior in flavor to its rival, the smaller Campestris.

But this question of gastronomic prestige will perhaps never be finally settled. De gustibus non est disptandum. Species considered here by many as the ne plus ultra of delicacies, like the Campestris, are discriminated against in other countries, and in Rome, it is said, are even thrown into the Tiber by inspectors and guardians of the public health who find it exposed for sale in the markets. There are those connoisseurs in delicate feasting who consider no other species comparable to this. These fastidious gourmands are in turn viewed with pitying consideration by other superior epicurean feeders with finer sensuous discrimination, who know perfectly well that our woods afford a number of common species which easily consign the Campestris to the fourth or fifth choice as a competitor at the feast.

The arts of the chef have been exhausted in the savory preparation of this, the most famous of the mushrooms. A few of his ingenious methods are given in a later chapter. Meanwhile most of us will be perfectly contented with our simple "mushrooms on toast."

In Matters Of Taste

While the Campestris is generally considered as "the" mushroom, there is another species which almost equally shares the honors in popular favor.

I have alluded to the habit of the horse-mushroom as "growing in crescents or rings." This singular tendency is, however, much more fully exemplified in another fungus, which has thus won the popular patronymic of the "Fairy-ring" Champignon, and which is considered on page 101.