The wood blewit or blue leg a fantastic winter edible mushroom , apparently the word blewit is derived from old English meaning ‘blue ‘ random as the blewit is defiantly purple maybe lilac but blue ? Ok it’s probably not important but it often enters the crazy musings of this forager .
Oh and it’s binomial name is one I can actually recall and retain , I generally find the Latin names impossible to retain but lepista nuda has stuck I remember it using , A drunken French nudist , as a memory helper
Le pissed a nude a
Funny how that works for me and it’s a method I’m using with other binomial names .
Nearly all foragers have come across blewits in some form or another either
For the reason it’s one of the most publicised edible mushrooms that can and often does cause a adverse reaction in some people and are completely safe in others or it’s the mushroom people look for at the onset of the winters falling temperature and the seasons first frosts .
As regards to where to look we have covered types of habits and micorizal symbiotic relationships between fungi and trees and using this information to narrow search areas blewits do not have any relationship with a set tree type it is a saprophyte living on and feeding from decaying matter and this widens the chances of finding them in numerous spots massively .
They grow in numbers so often found in troops or fairy rings my personal best finds have been under the darkest coniferous spots in the deep litter that builds up giving the blewit a good decaying ground to thrive but the fact is that blewits are happy to grow just about anywhere that they can spore in good dead mater , this time of year I see more blewit misidentifications than any other mushroom not so much complete misidentification but confusion between blewits themselves there are three that are relatively common throughout the U.K. Lepista nuda that is commonly known as the wood blewit ,Lepista personata that is commonly known as the field blewit and lepista sordida commonly known as the flesh brown blewit .
And this is where confusion begins firstly all of the blewits share a common aroma it has been described as orange juice the best I can offer is to say it’s a fruity / floral a nice perfumed smell, the wood blewit is in my opinion the culprit for confusion as it seems to be the wood blewit ( lepista nuda ) and it’s inability to stick to the woodland habitat in fact they are often found in fields and pastures sometimes clearly holding a relationship with a close by tree and it’s falling foliage but sometimes seemingly a field growing fungus and with obvious blewit defining characteristics this often causes doubt within identification and until all three mushrooms have been in hand it’s no surprise that doubt should arise , sordida is probably the most common being found in both woodland and field habitats and very frequently growing within patches of nuda and personata and once seen and identified is by far the least prized of the three , it is often confused to the wood blewit due to it’s lilac coloration but on close inspection there are several defining characteristics , these include a thin stipe and a less substantial cap if we look at the two side by side the differences are apparent
as you can see the wood blewit on the left ( lepista nuda ) is a thicker set fungus in all aspects the stipe is bigger in diameter and the cap thicker / meatier the important factor is the comparable dimensions these are constant with the sordida and is not a mature specimen feature both mushrooms share a common colour match and from above they can appear to be identical .
The flesh of these two blewits are thick and can appear to be translucent when moist often gaining a mottled pale pattern as they dry ,
As regards to the field blewit it has very similar build to the wood blewit possibly a heavier cap the coloration is creamy buff on top with a cream gill arrangement and the stipe is from top to bottom cream turning purple always reminding me of candy and in all accounts can fruit in impressive numbers sadly not locally abundant to me in honesty I had to look real hard to find a handful of examples .
and the spore prints are white-cream and can often be observed on the caps of overlapping specimens and this is an important feature as the main hazardous lookalike are members of the cortinarius family that can have very similar coloration and grow within the same habitat but are easily identified if you are aware of them .
Cortinarius gills are widely spaced and all have a rust brown prolific spore print that is very often found stained on the stipe , they hold the common name webcaps and have a cotton wool like web that engulfs the cap of young specimens and is found in part attached to the stipe when mature shown below
as you can see the cortinarius (left ) is visually stained by its rusty spores and although superficially similar in appearance they are easily distinguishable and once upturned the gill arrangement is key in eliminating any miss identifications .
Remember to try a small amount of any blewit when first discovering this winters beauty and when things look gloomy in the mist of winter stare into the depth of a blewit and find a smile .