A blewit!

“So, do you think it is still too early to add blewits to the ForageCast?”

I asked Jenna this question early this morning as we neared the end of a fun but unfruitful jaunt to a proven wood blewit patch. As if being summoned, the blewits answered before Jenna even had the chance. Perhaps they just wanted to make their presence known before I stepped on them, popping their pretty purplish faces up out of the duff just in time to avoid a sad, squishy fate.  

We picked a few, two of which are now resting on my coffee table, cooperating wonderfully by dropping their spores on the sheet of paper I placed below them. I rarely take a spore print for ID purposes these days, since I can immediately recognize most of my favorite edibles.

However, while my blewits (Clitocybe nuda) look unmistakably like the real thing, this is a species with a number of very close, very dangerous look-alikes from the genus Cortinarius. Corts usually have a cob-webby cortina covering the young gills, but this feature can disappear with maturity. The only way to positively rule out Corts is a spore print – blewits should have pale pinkish spores, while Corts leave a rusty brown deposit. Remember that this test simply rules out the blewit’s most menacing group of look-alikes; it does not necessarily rule in the blewit. Blewits are not a beginner species.

There are a number of other subtle ID features, which is why I am confident enough to announce that my find is no imposter even though the spore print is not yet visible. Blewits should have tightly spaced gills, a distinctive aroma, a cap that is slightly tacky when moist, and visible mycelium around the stem base. The gills should never be brownish or cob-webby. If your collection contains a nice mix of young and old specimens, the purple color should be most vibrant in the younger mushrooms. By the time they have reached maturity, there is often just a faint lavender hue detectable in the light brown, gray, or buff caps. 

So, don’t be disappointed if your blewit is not as “blue” as the name might suggest. You won’t be disappointed once you bite into a succulent morsel – just make sure you’ve done your homework first!

A blewit next to its pale pink spore print.

UPDATE: It is a blewit! I didn’t expect the spores to fall so quickly, but after writing this post I couldn’t resist sneaking a peak. I took two spore prints – one on white paper and the other on black. I gently lifted up the corner of each mushroom, since I am hoping to preserve these spore prints for a future project (more on that soon…). On the black paper you could already see a very crisp and bold light lavender spore print. On the white sheet, you could only see a very faint, light lavender spore print, as you would expect for the blewit! If the mushroom had been a Cort, I would have seen a darker, rusty brown spore print that would have appeared more prominently on the white paper.

Northeastern ForageCast for the week of September 20, 2011!