It’s eye-opening to learn about the wild things that grow in one’s backyard. It all started when I spotted some interesting looking mushrooms through the window. They were driving my husband crazy by growing on his well manicured lawn. One Saturday, I headed outside a little early to take pictures of them before he eliminated all traces of fungi from our yard. The mushrooms were so fascinating that I posted pictures of them on Facebook. A friend commented that the mushroom were called Shaggy Mane and that people make ink out of them. I was intrigued with the idea that I might be able to learn the ink making process and develop a self sufficient skill so of course I had to try it.
Shaggy Mane Ink Caps
There are several names for these mushrooms. Shaggy Mane and Lawyer’s Wig are the most common, named for the first growth stages as you can see in the first picture above. It’s also called Ink Cap or (my favorite) Inky Cap for the last stages of it’s life. As the mushroom dies it starts dissolving into ink. This means making ink is easy because the mushroom does the hard part.
Ink Making Process
Here are the steps:
- Pluck the Inky Caps. You can pluck them at any stage of growth. I picked 8 of them for the amount you see in the small jar below.
- Place the Inky Caps in a open dish. You’ll want some of the liquid to evaporate.
- Patiently await. The picture above of the ink covered mushrooms is 12 hours after they were picked.
Most of the Inky Caps dissolve after about a week. I let it set for another week to let some of the liquid evaporate so the ink would be a little thicker. It should be noted that when the mushrooms start dissolving it has a rotting smell. The smell was only noticeable when I got close to it. I was able to eliminate the rotting smell by adding 2 drops of Melaleuca essential oil.
How to Use Shaggy Mane Ink
- paint brush
- stamped impressions
Since I was a teenager, learning Calligraphy was on my bucket list. This project has ignited that desire and given me an excuse to start practicing. I own 12 different size nibs and have found a “fine tip” nib works best verses other size nibs. If you don’t have a quill, a paintbrush works well. Another unique quality that Inky Caps have is that you don’t need a writing instrument to use the ink. Once the under-cap of the Shaggy Mane starts to turn black you can stamp ink prints of the mushrooms. To use it as a stamp, cut the inky cap in half to expose the gills or under-cap of the mushroom. Then with the gills facing a paper, press the mushroom against the paper. Below is a picture of examples of stamped impressions of Shaggy Mane Mushrooms.
Shaggy Mane & Inky Cap Pictures
When I first took these pictures, I thought I was taking pictures of three different mushrooms. However, the pictures illustrate the three stages of it’s life cycle. In the first stage it’s all white. I missed the “all white” stage but hopefully you get the idea. The “all white” stage (before it’s gills start to turn black), it’s said to be edible, according to Wikipedia (disclaimer). I personally, don’t believe it’s safe to eat wild mushrooms so I didn’t try them but if I was hungry enough, anything is possible. In the second stage it turns brown and the tips are inky so it’s a perfect time for stamped impressions or picking it to make ink. In the third stage it’s drying up and dying. The whole life cycle of the Shaggy Mane lasted less than twenty-four hours.
Wrapping It Up
My husband doesn’t find mushrooms in our yard anymore. However, he does find stamped impressions of inky caps or a jar of decomposing mushrooms once in a while (he’s so sweet and puts up with so much). The season seems to be over since I have not seen any for a few weeks. I have learned that they grow all over the world in grassy areas. Their growing season is between April and October. My yard only produced them in September and October.
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