Sarcoscypha coccinea: The Ultimate Mushroom Guide
About The Sarcoscypha coccinea Mushroom
Sarcoscypha coccinea or Scarlet Elf Cup is an edible fungus species in the Sarcoscyphaceae family. It grows best in temperate climates, with present recordings being from Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America, and Australia.
This fungus grows well in areas where decaying wood is abundant, typically restricting itself to the damper, shaded areas of the forest floor. Its bright red interior, small fruitings and jelly-like texture put most people off eating this fungus.
This fungus was once used for medicinal purposes by Oneida Native Americans.
They grow from a fine stem that is covered in tiny white hairs that can’t be seen until they’re picked. They release their spores from the upper surface of the cupped cap.
Sarcoscypha coccinea is one of several fungi whose fruit bodies have been noted to make a "puffing" sound—an audible manifestation of spore-discharge where thousands of asci simultaneously explode to release a cloud of spores.
Scarlet Elf Cup
Sarcoscypha coccinea Identification
The irregularly shaped cups have a smooth, red (hymenal) inner surface and a much paler felty outer surface. The edge of young cups is usually incurved. There is a short stipe, typically 0.5-3cm long and 0.3-0.7cm diameter, often buried in moss and leaf litter, and it is the same color as the outer surface of the cup or slightly paler. Cup diameter when mature ranges between 1.5 and 5cm; height (excluding stem) is typically 1 to 2cm.
The outer (infertile) surface is paler than the inside, sometimes pinkish but often with an ochre tinge. It is covered in tiny hairs, some of which are straight while others have one or more bends, but they are not coiled as they are in Sarcoscypha austriaca. This is a useful identifying characteristic but requires strong magnification - please see the photomicrograph above.
Another distinguishing feature is the hairy outer surface of the cups, which are covered in a matted felt (tomentum) of tiny uncoiled hairs in the case of Sarcoscypha coccinea and coiled (like a corkscrew) hairs in the case of Sarcoscypha austriaca.
This mushroom has a white spore print. Elongated ellipsoidal (almost always with rounded ends), smooth, 26-40 x 10-12.5µm; hyaline. The oil droplets are distributed throughout the spores.
Spores 25-35 x 11-14 µ; ellipsoid; with many small (< 3 µ) oil droplets; not sheathed or irregularly sheathed. Asci 8-spored. Paraphyses filiform; with orangish red contents. Excipular surface with hairs that are only slightly curved, and are not twisted.
Sarcoscypha coccinea Similar Species
Sarcoscypha-austriaca, the Scarlet Elfcup, is virtually indistinguishable via macroscopic characters; it has coiled hairs on the outer (infertile) surface of the cup and broader spores often with flat ends or double-humped ends where conidial buds (asexual spores) are forming.
Aleuria aurantia, the Orange Peel Fungus, is larger, orange rather than red, and grows on soil rather than on wood.
Sarcoscypha coccinea Uses
This mushroom was used as a medicinal fungus by the Oneida Indians, and possibly by other tribes of the Iroquois Six Nations. The fungus, after being dried and ground up into a powder, was applied as a styptic, particularly to the navels of newborn children that were not healing properly after the umbilical cord had been severed. Pulverized fruit bodies were also kept under bandages made of soft-tanned deerskin.
In Scarborough, England, the fruit bodies used to be arranged with moss and leaves and sold as a table decoration.
Sarcoscypha coccinea Taxonomy & Etymology
The species was described in 1755 by Carl Linnaeus, who called it Peziza cyathoides. Its specific epithet (basionym) dates from 1774, when this cup fungus was described in Flora Austriaca by Netherlands-born botanist Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquin (1727 - 1817) under the scientific name Peziza coccinea. Sarcoscypha coccinea was given its current scientific name by Pier Andrea Saccardo in 1889.
The many synonyms of Sarcoscypha coccinea include Geopyxis coccinea (Jacq.) Sacc., Peziza insolita Cooke, Peziza cyathoides L., Peziza coccinea Jacq., Peziza epidendra Bull., Peziza aurantia Schumach., Macroscyphus coccineus (Jacq.) Gray, Geopyxis insolita (Cooke) Sacc., Helvella coccinea Schaeff., Geopyxis bloxamii Massee, and Aleuria insolita (Cooke) Boud.
The specific epithet coccinea means 'bright red' (as in the edible coloring cochineal).
Sarcoscypha coccinea Cooking Notes
One of the great things about this fungi is that its amazing color and seafood flavor isn’t lost during cooking and can, therefore, add a really nice contrast of color to dishes. They work especially well floated on a consommés, and tossed in green leafy salads, as well as grain salads.
Recipe: Elf Cups Stuffed with Egg and Three Cornered Leek
Makes around 12 medium-sized Elf Cupsю
1 free range egg
1 tbsp of double cream
1 finely chopped three cornered leek plus flowers
12 pennywort leaves
Pinch of ras-el-hanout
Pinch of Cornish Sea Salt
Knob of butter
Splash of olive oil
How to cook
Combine the egg, cream, leek, salt and ras-el-hanout and lightly whisk.
Scramble the egg mixture as normal in a little butter to desired texture.
Meanwhile fry the elf cups in a little oil and butter for no more than a minute, overcooked they will to lose their delicate flavour.
Place each elf cup on a pennywort leaf, fill with the scrambled egg, and garnish with wild leek flowers. Serve.
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