Scarlet / Ruby Elf Cup, Sarcoscypha austriaca / coccinea
Scarlet / Ruby Elfcups are one of the true winter mushrooms, spouting from dead or decaying wood between November and April. They are also extremely beautiful things, being a deep red circular cup that stands out from the forest floor making them very easy to spot. They can often be hidden amongst the leaf litter, so if you spot one, there's very likely more hiding nearby. This is quite a tasty mushroom, but can be a bit of a pain to clean as pine needles, moss and other leaf litter seems to magically cling to the mushroom. Once cleaned, they can be added to a range of mushroom dishes. Some sources claim that these mushrooms can be eaten raw, but just to be safe, we prefer to cook them. Scarlet and Ruby Elfcups are near enough identical to the naked eye, requiring specialist knowledge and equipment to distinguish them. Both are equally edible.
These mushrooms belong to a group of mushrooms that balistaically fire their spores from pores on the cap, rather than dropping them from the gills. These mushrooms are called ascomycetes. If you blow on the cap of a mature elfcup and immediately hold it to your ear, you can hear the little pops of the spores being fired.
Scarlet / Ruby Elf Cup Checklist
🌳 Deciduous Woodland
🌲 Coniferous Woodland
🔗 Found in association with dead and decaying wood, particularly hazel.
❄️🌸 Between November and April.
📈 Grows singly, or small clusters on dead or decaying wood.
🍄 Cup-shaped, later becoming flatter as they grow out. They can often split along the cap margins with age and average around 6-7 cm wide.
⚛️ No gills. This mushroom has tiny pores on the top of the cap that fire out spores.
♊️ Small and thin, off-white to pink in colour.
⚪️ Thin off-white, tears easily.
Aroma / Taste
👃 Indistinct smell.
👅 Mild mushroom flavour.
🟩 ID Difficulty - Beginner
👀 The bright red cup-shaped cap and is the key identifier of this mushroom.
🔗 It's habit of fruiting of dead or decaying wood is also a key identifier.
👂 Hear the firing spores by giving mature specimens a blow and holding to your ear. Another identifier of this mushroom.
❄️ This mushroom fruits when hardly any other fungi are active, making it very difficult to confuse with anything else.
🍄 Fungi - Used in mushroom recipes.