The world of edible mushrooms is an exciting one. And with so many mushrooms, from culinary to medicinal, there are seemingly endless mushroom species to sample. One worth exploring is the gypsy mushroom.
In this guide, you’ll learn all about this interesting edible mushroom. From its somewhat complicated naming history to its health benefits, how to enjoy them, and much more.
Better known by its common name, gypsy mushroom, cortinarius caperatus is an edible mushroom of the genus cortinarius. Sometimes mushroom identification isn’t exactly straightforward, and some mushrooms go by many names before the common name we know them as today. Such is the case with gypsy mushrooms. As such, you may see them identified as rozites caperata or rozites caperatus, depending on the source you’re consulting.
A gypsy mushroom is mycorrhizal (like bolete mushrooms), meaning it’s a type of fungi that forms symbiotic relationships with the plants around it, which very often includes trees. So what does this dynamic look like?
Mushrooms like the gypsy mushroom will use their mycelium (more on this later) around the roots of a plant (or tree) to absorb sugar created through photosynthesis. As this is a mutually beneficial relationship, the gypsy mushroom will help the plant absorb water and phosphorus (1).
The taxonomy for gypsy mushrooms is as follows:
Mushroom identification is essential with gypsy mushrooms, as these are a variety of mushroom that could easily be confused with a decidedly non-edible version.
A gypsy mushroom often has a flat or bell-shaped cap that can be wrinkled. The color will vary with maturity, ranging from grayish to whitish during the early stages of development to more yellow and eventually more brown and ochre-colored.
Gills can be white with a partial veil in early growth stages and change with time, turning into a cinnamon brown. This mushroom has a rusty brown spore print, and the stipe has a thick white ring in the midsection (2)
Psst: A gypsy mushroom is not typically considered a beginner mushroom since identification can be challenging. Keep this in mind if you plan on harvesting your own gypsy mushrooms!
Gypsy mushrooms are found in North America and parts of Europe, growing in coniferous forests near hardwoods and shrubs. Their growing season extends from the summer months through the fall, and while they can sometimes grow alone, you’re likely to see more than one at a time (2).
German mycologist Christiaan Hendrik Persoon first described gypsy mushrooms in 1796, although he classified them as agaricus caperatus at the time. It wasn’t until 1838 that another mycologist, the Swedish-born Elias Magnus Fries, renamed the gypsy mushroom again, dropping the agaricus and adding cortinarius.
The gypsy mushroom’s naming evolution wouldn’t stop there, however. Other mycologists noted the difference between gypsy mushrooms and other shrooms in the cortinarius genus. Cortinarius mushrooms have a partial veil (think of a delicate web), so Pier Andrea Saccardo reclassified it to another genus, pholiota. The rozites naming came about in honor of another mycologist Ernst Roze.
After DNA sequencing took place in 2002, mycologists reverted back to the classification given by Fries (2).
Unlike some other mushrooms we’ve explored, the gypsy mushroom doesn’t necessarily have as much data and scientific studies demonstrating its health benefits. But that doesn’t mean we’re entirely in the dark.
Similar to other mushrooms, evidence suggests gypsy mushrooms may have anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. An animal study found a cloned peptide isolated from gypsy mushrooms to be helpful against herpes simplex virus (3). Further studies show gypsy mushrooms may be high in antioxidants and have tremendous free radical scavenging abilities (4).
It’s important to note that mushrooms can pick up contaminants from the environment—an excellent reason to be mindful of where and how your mushrooms are grown—and a gypsy mushroom is no exception. They tend to absorb even more environmental contaminants than other mushrooms.
Evidence shows that a gypsy mushroom will absorb radioactive isotopes, so be mindful of where you harvest your gypsy mushrooms (2). Even more, these mushrooms can also have elevated levels of mercury, so it’s best to enjoy them on occasion rather than making them a regular part of your dining experience (5).
Even if you’re itching to lace up your hiking boots and head out into your local area to gather gypsy mushrooms, learning about the differences between foraging and ethically wildcrafting mushrooms is essential.
Foraging is usually a more general term for gathering wild mushrooms and other herbs, plants, and berries. Wildcrafting is more specific and refers to harvesting local resources for medicinal needs. While it might seem as though foraging and wildcrafting are synonyms for each other, they have very different approaches.
One of the notable differences between foraging and wildcrafting is the extent of consideration given to each step of the harvesting process and how it may impact the local environment; ethical wildcrafting focuses on the totality of the environment rather than simply gathering a resource.
Before venturing out, spend some time familiarizing yourself with your local area. Learn about which mushrooms are local to you (keep a field guide handy) and other threatened or endangered species. Another important aspect is being aware of any dangerous lookalikes you could encounter and how to clearly identify what you’re gathering. We strongly recommend consulting with a professional.
Learning a little more about mushroom anatomy and harvesting practices is also a good idea. When you gather wild mushrooms, most of the time you’re collecting the fruiting bodies and not the entire mushrooms. Just beneath the surface, you’ll find mycelium, made up of highly intricate filaments called hyphae that facilitate communication between mushrooms and other trees and plants. This “wood wide web” passes information about environmental changes and potential predators. Mindful harvesting ensures this fragile system of communication remains intact.
Lastly, ethical wildcrafting involves remembering we aren’t the only ones who enjoy feasting on mushrooms. Birds, rodents, insects, deer, and other animals rely on mushrooms as a primary food source. By only harvesting what you need, you’re helping ensure the delicate balance of your local ecosystem remains intact.
Depending on what you’re harvesting, you may want to consider making a spore print. A spore print can help with identification, and it can also help you cultivate mushrooms at home.
Nature offers many beautiful gifts for us to enjoy. Learning more about ethical wildcrafting and mindful harvesting helps preserve these treasures for generations to come.
Since gypsy mushrooms are edible and considered a delicacy in some areas, you can enjoy these shrooms much like any other culinary or medicinal mushroom—by getting creative in the kitchen! Here are some of our favorite recipes for enjoying a gypsy mushroom harvest.
When you need a speedy dinner on the table that doesn’t take up your evening, look no further than this fabulous white wine pasta with mushrooms and leeks. Simple enough for a weeknight dinner yet sophisticated enough for company, this one-pot meal elevates pasta night to a whole new level. With gypsy mushrooms’ mild and nutty flavor, they’re a lovely addition to any meal.
While this recipe calls for cremini mushrooms, this is a perfect dish for foraged gypsy mushrooms or chanterelles. Sauteed mushrooms, tender leeks, and flavorful garlic form the base of this dish. Stock, white wine, and cream combine to create a delightfully rich sauce kissed with lemon (zest and juice) and a handful of fresh herbs.
Has there ever been a more ideal pairing than wild mushrooms and risotto? We think not. And there’s a fun twist to this dish with no need for homemade broth thanks to another wildly versatile kitchen ingredient: miso. Whisked into hot water, miso brings all the rich umami flavor you need for this mushroom risotto.
This recipe keeps it simple with only a few ingredients. Keep the maitake mushrooms and add your gypsy mushrooms for a soul-satisfying vegetarian dish.
It’s always a good idea to have a go-to appetizer for last-minute company or when you need a quick snack. And this mushroom conserva ticks all the boxes: flavorful, easy, and most importantly, quick. It’s versatile, too, lending itself to a perfect mixture of wild mushrooms or others you can find at your local farmer’s market or grocery store (oyster mushrooms, mmm).
Gypsy mushrooms aren’t common, although they may be worth seeking out. Remember to be mindful of identification and where you’re gathering these mushrooms so you can safely enjoy every delicious bite!
For more mushroom happenings, including news and breakthroughs on medicinal and psychedelic mushrooms, be sure to keep up with us on shroomer.
Robson, Diana Bizecki. “Mycorrhizal Mushrooms - The Manitoba Museum.” The Manitoba Museum, March 6, 2017. https://manitobamuseum.ca/archives/22213
Mushroom Identification - Ultimate Mushroom Library. “Cortinarius Caperatus: The Ultimate Mushroom Guide,” n.d. https://ultimate-mushroom.com/edible/195-cortinarius-caperatus.html
Yan, Naihong, Fen He, Frank Piraino, Haotian Xiang, Jun Chen, Yun Wang, and Xuyang Liu. “Antiviral Activity of a Cloned Peptide RC28 Isolated from the Higher Basidiomycetes Mushroom Rozites Caperata in a Mouse Model of HSV-1 Keratitis.” International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, January 1, 2015. https://doi.org/10.1615/intjmedmushrooms.v17.i9.20
Beltrame, Gabriele, Marina Zacchigna, Tiziano Altieri, and Giuseppe Procida. “Mycochemical Study of Polysaccharides from the Edible Mushroom Cortinarius Caperatus (Gypsy Mushroom).” ResearchGate, September 24, 2017. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320466144_Mycochemical_study_of_polysaccharides_from_the_edible_mushroom_Cortinarius_caperatus_Gypsy_mushroom
Falandysz, Jerzy. “Distribution of Mercury in Gypsy Cortinarius Caperatus Mushrooms from Several Populations: An Efficient Accumulator Species and Estimated Intake of Element.” Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 110 (December 1, 2014): 68–72. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoenv.2014.08.018