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.
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.