Stinkhorn (Witch’s egg)

Stinkhorn

Common name: Common stinkhorn, witch’s egg, devil’s egg, Hexeneier

Botanical name: Phallus impudicus

Family: Phallaceae (Stinkhorn)

Worldwide distribution: Found throughout much of Europe and North America.

Local distribution: Common and widespread in Britain and Ireland.

Habitat: Woodland, mulched gardens and dunes.

Foraging season: Immature ‘eggs’ late spring to autumn.

Witches' eggs

Stinkhorn gets its name for a reason: it looks like a horn – and it really stinks. The binomial name is even more descriptive: Phallus impudicus, what roughly translates to ‘shamelessly phallic’.

The unfortunate shape and vile smell of mature stinkhorn might lead you to think that these mushrooms are poisonous, but in fact they are not. In China, the related Phallus indusiatus is a choice mushroom regarded as an aphrodisiac. There is also culinary interest in some European countries like France and Germany.

The ideal stage to harvest stinkhorn is the egg-shaped immature fruiting body that remains attached to the ground by a cord-like mycelial strand, sometimes only partly buried in pine needles and leaf litter.

Make sure you are actually dealing with the right ‘eggs’, as immature death cap (Amanita phalloides) or puffball could confuse the inexperienced forager. They are easy to tell apart, as stinkhorn is always filled with jelly and a green mass of spores – that you’ll almost certainly smell before you see it.

The raw white kernel (receptaculum) found in the ‘egg’ stage is odourless, crunchy like a water chestnut and has an earthy mild radish flavour that resembles like a veg more than a mushroom. You can eat them raw and tossed into salads or chop them up and put them in noodle soups and stews.

Witches' eggs

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5 thoughts on “Stinkhorn (Witch’s egg)

  1. Hi, just cooked and eaten one – delicious. Started with one slice, removing jelly etc. tasted good. Then tried with the jelly – sooooo good. Reminded me of the squidge underlayer of crackling on roast belly pork – something I haven’t eaten for 30 years, being broadly vegetarian nowadays. Will be seeking out more.

    • Hi Anna,
      I always thought it would taste something like aspic. I am not very fond on savoury jelly, but perhaps this could work to set pana cotta or crème caramel?
      Thanks for sharing your experience!
      Alvaro

  2. Dear Alvaro,
    I just left a comment on the “forager chef” site of Alan Bergo.
    I and my colleagues have just eaten quite a lot of these raw and cooked. I removed the outer skin and the mucilaginous jelly layer with its inner skin. This revealed the olive green spore mass underneath (that will indeed become nasty, slimy and stinky if it has the chance), surrounding the white core, which is the only part you eat. In the young eggs, however, we all found this olive green spore mass very pleasant, both raw and cooked. It had no strong odour and it had a really pleasant texture – a bit spongier than the crunchy white core and more mushroomy. Also, the prepared eggs, sliced in cross section, gave really attractive slices – white on the inside with a corona of olive/dark brown. And not smelly at all.
    I really suggest you try it – “just” (it’s not that easy, but after the first few I got the hang of it) peel away the slimy bit with its inner membrane. Check that what remains does not have an unpleasant odour for you, but I really think you are throwing away some of the best bits, just like people who throw away the “corral” of scallops … go figure…

    • Hi Jacqui,
      Reading your comment leads me to think the green spore mass is probably similar to puffballs in texture / flavour, perhaps?
      I’m not feeling brave enough, but I might change my mind after your experience.
      I also think the smell depends on how developed the mushroom is, even at egg stage.
      Thanks for your awesome contribution!
      Alvaro

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