Stinkhorn (Witch’s egg)

Stinkhorn witches egg (Phallus impudicus)
Obscene-looking and stinky, the Stinkhorn is not a popular mushroom by all means. Nonetheless, there is still an appetite for the fungi in some places, where the white kernel of the immature mushroom, which is nothing alike, it's actually appreciated. for its flavour and texture.

Table of Contents

Stinkhorn: Profile

Common names

Common Stinkhorn, Stinkhorn Mushroom, Stinky Penis Mushroom, Witch’s Egg, Witches Egg, Devil’s Egg, Deadman’s Cock, Hexeneier

Botanical name

Phallus impudicus

Fungi family

Phallaceae (Stinkhorn)

Distribution

Found throughout much of Europe and North America. Common and widespread in Britain and Ireland.

Where to find Stinkhorn

Woodland, mulched gardens and dunes.

When to find Stinkhorn

Immature ‘eggs’ late spring to autumn.

How to identify Stinkhorn

The Stinkhorn grows from a spherical white ‘egg’. The fruit body as a whole resembles a human phallus. The cap is cone-shaped and covered by a smooth layer of olive-green slime, which gradually becomes off-white, revealing the honeycomb-like pattern underneath. The stem is long, thin, hollow and white in colour. The base is bulbous. The smell is strong and putrid when mature, but is neutral in its ‘egg’ stage. The spores are thoroughly mixed with dark slime.

Stinkhorn lookalikes

In its ‘egg’ stage, the Stinkhorn could be mistaken with young Amanitas (Amanita sp.), but these will not have the olive-green spores surrounded by slime. It could also be confused wirh Puffballs (Lycoperdon sp.), which are spongey and totally white inside or Earthballs (Scleroderma sp.), which are black inside.

Some members of the Stinkhorn family (Phallaceae), such as the Dune Stinkhorn (Phallus hadriani) and the Dog Stinkhorn (Mutinus caninus) are similar but have different colour.

In addition, Stinkhorn resembles superficially to Black Morel (Morchella importuna) and False Morel (Gyromitra esculenta), but the smell should avoid confusion.

Stinkhorn witches egg (Phallus impudicus)

 

All about Stinkhorn

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.

Medicinal properties of Stinkhorn

In folk medicine, this mushroom has a long history of use in Europe. Presumably because of its shape, Stinkhorn has been used to cure erectile dysfunction and as an aphrodisiac, however there is no science to back up those medicinal claims.

Culinary uses and recipes with Stinkhorn

We are interested in 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 the Stinkhorn is always filled with jelly and a green mass of spores – that in mature spcimens 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.

Stinkhorn witches egg (Phallus impudicus)

 

Safe foraging of Stinkhorn

Though Stinkhorn Mushroom is not poisonous, it’s best eaten at egg stage, before the scent becomes so strong that makes ir inedible.

Ecological importance of Stinkhorn

The Stinkhorn provides a source of food for blowflies and other insects.

The mushroom also helps to recycle nutrients into the soil.

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Alvaro Docio

Alvaro Docio

I am the person behind British Local Food. As a forager and wild food educator, my aim is to inspire you to go outdoors, familiarise with your local plants and make the best of their culinary and medicinal properties, in the hope you'd pass on any knowledge gained down to the next generation.

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11 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.

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
  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…

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply

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