A fungal foray

Disclaimer – if you are going to pick mushrooms and eat them, for goodness sake don’t rely on my site for identification or advice. Get some good books – I recommend Roger’s Mushrooms – and be very very very sure of what you’re eating BEFORE you eat it! Otherwise you could have a long time dead (or if you’re lucky, very ill) to repent your lack of judgement. πŸ˜‰

This year I haven’t really picked many mushrooms; mostly I’ve just photographed them. But the other week we were walking at Puttenham and we met an elderly couple out foraging. They had a basket of amethyst deceivers and told me that they were gathering them for an Italian recipe – pickled mushrooms. Apparently you pickle them in vinegar, which preserves that glorious purple colour, and then you serve them over… wait for it… ice cream! Not a marriage I’d have ever come up with, to be honest, but they swore that it’s a delicious combination.

I don’t normally gather amethyst deceivers, as they’re small and fairly nondescript in taste. Also, they are so beautiful when young and vibrant purple that it seems a shame to cut them down in their prime. The foraging couple had a few wood blewits too, and it prompted me to go and check out the spot that someone showed me where blewits grow. I couldn’t resist harvesting a few to go in a chicken and mushroom pie, so whilst I was at it I gathered some amethyst deceivers too, and a couple of boletes.

The large purple/mauve ones are wood blewits; Lepista nuda. The small purple ones are amethyst deceivers; Laccaria amethystina. The brown ones are Boletes, but despite studying my books over and over, I couldn’t definitively identify either. As the poisonous members of the Boletus family are easily identifiable and most of the others are edible, I took the chance and ate them, having tasted them first and found them palatable.

big plump shiny bolete

cut bolete, showing flesh flushing pink with vinaceous lines under the cap and above pores


Now normally I’m a very cautious forager. I reject out of hand anything that is said to
“cause gastric upsets in some people”. I’m not sure why it’s different for wood blewits, particularly (or maybe because) the adverse reaction is not nausea and vomiting but the danger of haemolytic anaemia (destruction of your red blood cells) if you eat them raw or undercooked.

wood blewit – survived it this time

Wood blewits are part of the Clitocybe family, which contains a couple of deadly poisonous mushrooms and several that will make you properly ill. On this occasion, the blewits were growing within a mass of related clouded agaric – Clitocybe nebularis – which are edible and palatable to some but said to cause gastric upset in ‘many’ people. I don’t think I’ll bother.

clouded agaric – toxic to many

Anyhow, I did chance it with these blewits and the unidentified boletes. It’s over a week ago and I’m still here, so I guess the proof of the pudding is in the eating (and then not collapsing in horrendous pain shortly afterwards).Β  πŸ™‚ We didn’t have enough fungi to fill the mushroom portion of the chicken and mushroom pie, so after I’d definitively identified the blewits with a spore printΒ (I would seriously recommend that you do this, since wood blewits with their pink spore print can be easily confused with poisonous Cortinarius species, whose spore prints are rusty brown), I sliced them and added them to finely chopped shop-bought chestnut mushrooms which I’d simmered in butter/oil and garlic. The point of that was to give a different texture to the mushroom mix, and also because I’ve read that adding a small amount of wild mushrooms to bought mushrooms will enomously improve their flavour. Having done this, I’d agree with that assertion – it was absolutely delicious.

characteristic wide spaced gills of the amethyst deceiver

I encountered another mushroom that is actually edible but which I declined to sample. The deceiving bolete – Boletus queletii – is edible but looks quite alarming, frankly. The known poisonous members of the Boletus family are easily identifiable since they have red pores, therefore although a couple of red/orange boletes are edible, for some reason I can’t muster much of an appetite for them… πŸ™‚ I did draw a pretty picture to demonstrate how I feel about all my regular readers… oh and how the pores bruise. πŸ˜‰

deceiving bolete, demonstrating the navy blue bruising of pores



Here’s a cute baby Bolete, too.

cute baby bolete










11 thoughts on “A fungal foray

  1. Fantastic photographs – much better than in my Encyclopaedia of Fungi of the British Isles and Europe. I’ve not managed to really identify much, but then again I have never succeeded in making a spore print either, so I just guess what colour they are.

    • To do spore prints, just remove the stalks so that the caps lie flat, then place one specimen on a white surface and one on a dark surface – that way you get a better idea of exactly what the colour is. Leave them for a few hours/overnight. The spore prints look really beautiful, too. πŸ™‚

      • That is a good tip about the dark surface. Do you think I might have been attempting to take a spore print of white spores on a white paper? I never thought of that one. I will try again as it is the time to do it as there are lots out at the moment. Thank you.

      • Amelia if I’ve got a good idea of what colour the print should be, then I choose the colour of the surface accordingly. If I’m not sure and I’ve only got one mushroom, then I place half on a white surface, half on a dark surface.
        The amethyst deceivers have a white spore print and I still put them on white paper as I was sure of their id anyway and if I’d been wrong, then I’d have noticed the different colour, if you see what I mean. You could see the white on white spore print as a texture and it was quite beautiful. I took some pics but I must have deleted them, otherwise I was going to post them for you! That was an overnight print though, so quite heavy. The trick is to get the right age fungi too – they have to be mature but not ‘gone over’ – in their prime, basically, to get maximum spore drop. You’ve inspired me now to do some more spore print pics!

  2. Again great pictures. There is nothing you can’t shoot with your camera, from mushrooms to the
    no. 1 movie in the world, Skyfall … oh, we πŸ™‚ you too!

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