Known for its rounded purple cap and stocky stalk, the wood blewit, lepista nuda, is regarded highly for its beautiful lavender color. While they can have an unpleasant smell when fresh, these edible mushrooms have a strong flavor and can be a delicious addition to many recipes.
Wood blewits are most easily identified when they are young, as young specimens have the striking blue or purple color most associated with the species and lend a pop of color against the dull brown leaf litter. However, as the mushroom ages, it changes to brown or tan in color and can be commonly confused with several other species.
The wood blewit mushroom grows in clusters,
Despite being known as a purple species, blewit caps can come in a variety of colors, including whitish dull pink, beige, blue, and several shades in between.
Even in older specimens, a little purple usually remains in the tight gills on the underside of the cap, which helps in identifying these fungi.
Wood blewits are common and found throughout the world, including in mainland Europe, Asia, North America, South America, and – more recently – Australia.
Fast Facts about Wood Blewits
- Outdated names for the wood blewit include lepista nuda, tricholoma nudum, and agaricus nudus. Synonyms for clitocybe include lepista, tricholoma, and collybia. It was once called the blue-gilled agaric and the amethyst lepista.
- German mycologist Paul Krummer transferred the wood blewit from a lepista species into the genus tricholoma in 1871, and clitocybe nuda is still considered a tricholoma species in parts of the world.
- Cortinarius species can often be confused with mature wood blewit specimens but have rusty colored spores – and a rusty brown spore print – as compared to clitocybe nuda’s pale pink spores.
- Until recent years, wood blewits were not considered native to Australia. But according to a 2016 issue of Australian Zoologist, satin bowerbirds changed this assumption. With these birds, the males collect blue objects with which to decorate their bowers and attract mates. Apparently, a young male collected wood blewits and added them to his bower in southern New South Wales.
- Wood blewits are often found growing in fairy rings – a naturally occurring ring of mushrooms caused by a spore finding a favorable spot and spreads out an underground network of tubular threads called hyphae. Mushroom caps then flourish along the edges of this network, forming a large ring.
- Aside from the wide range of continents upon which wood blewits are found, they also flourish in a variety of habitats. It is just as likely to find these purple mushrooms in an urban habitat to see their fruiting bodies sprout up from your compost heap.
- Wood blewit mushrooms grow in clusters, so it’s unlikely you’ll find just one blewit in an area. Instead, it’s more likely you’ll find them as part of a fairy ring.
How do I Identify Wood Blewit Mushrooms?
Depending on where you live, you may not need to look far to find clitocybe nuda. Sometimes you only have to look as far as the compost pile in your backyard!
If you live near wood blewits’ natural habitat, keep your eyes peeled for the violet caps peeking up from leaf litter or a fairy ring on a walk through the woods. Use the following identification guide to determine whether you have stumbled upon a patch of wood blewits.
Saprobic is found on leaf litter in mixed woods and in piles of organic decay, such as compost piles. Found growing in clusters within fairy rings.
The simple cap is convex when young and can become flatter with age. Can measure between 3 – 12 centimeters across.
The thick stem has a swollen base and can measure 5 – 10 centimeters in length.
Attached to the stem, sometimes separated by a notch. Gills are lavender in color, and usual maintain this color despite advancing age.
August to December in Britain and Ireland but can also be spotted during the winter months in warmer climates, such as those in North America.
Can be found throughout mixed woods throughout North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. They grow in urban settings and woods, grasslands, and sandy soil near beaches.
Slightly sweet taste. Sweet, fragrant smell that some may view as unpleasant.
Wood blewits are an edible fungi and have a subtly sweet taste and strong smell. They are prized in culinary arts for their ability to pair well with many foods.
Allergic reactions have been reported when consuming raw or cooked wood blewit mushrooms. However, allergic reactions are much more common when not cooked.
Similar Species to Clitocybe Nuda
- Clitocybe tarda – this wood blewit lookalike is similar in color, shape, and overall appearance to clitocybe nuda. It even has a similar pinkish tan spore print. However, this fungus has a bitter taste and isn’t known to be edible.
- Field Blewit (Lepista saeva) – It is very similar to clitocybe nuda, except that it lacks the blue or violet tinged cap. Dull light brown or beige in color.
- Ivory Funnel (Clitocybe dealbata) – this toxic species derives its common name for its white or cream color. It is also known as the “sweating mushroom” due to the symptoms of poisoning. It grows in the same habitats as the wood blewit and is often found growing in fairy rings. It has a white spore color and spore print.
- This poisonous lookalike has high and potentially deadly levels of muscarine, a common toxin found in many mushroom species.
- Fool’s Funnel or False Champignon (Clitocybe rivulosa) – another toxic species similar to lepista nuda, is white or cream in color and is similar in shape and size to the wood blewit. Can be confused with older wood blewit specimens, which lack a violet tint.
- Like the Ivory Funnel, clitocybe rivulosa contains high and potentially lethal levels of muscarine.
Clitocybe Nuda Lookalikes
Cortinarius mushrooms are often confused with clitocybe species and are the largest genus of mushrooms globally, containing well over a thousand species dispersed worldwide.
Fungi in the genus cortinarius have rust brown spore prints, rounded caps in a variety of colors, and stocky stems that can easily be mistaken for clitocybe nuda or a similar clitocybe mushroom.
However, most cortinarius species are poisonous, which makes proper identification between the two species important.
How to Tell Between Clitocybe Nuda and Cortinarius
- Spore print identification – a wood blewit mushroom will have a pale pinkish or beige spore print while cortinarius lookalikes will have rust-colored spores and a similar reddish brown spore print.
- Gills – cortinarius fungi have loose arcs of webbing over their gills on the underside of their caps, which resemble cobwebs and may be the same color as their spores.
- Caps – cortinarius caps are slimier than those in the genus clitocybe. Mature specimens will also be a vibrant purple in color, where wood blewit specimens lose their color with age.
Can I Wood Blewits be Cultivated?
Wood blewit mushrooms have been cultivated in Britain, France, and the Netherlands. However, it has been reported that cultivated wood blewits aren’t as flavorful as wild wood blewits.
How do I Cook Wood Blewit Mushrooms?
Like all wild edible fungi, wood blewit mushrooms must be cooked before eating. They can be sauteed in butter and eaten with cream sauce – a recipe that showcases this fungi’s natural flavor. They are a good edible mushroom, with a meaty texture and subtle sweetness.
Wood blewits are generally regarded as good stewing mushrooms. Their strong taste pairs well with onions and leeks, especially in stews. They also go great with eggs in omelets or breakfast burritos.
Wash your wood blewit mushrooms thoroughly to get rid of any leaf litter stuck to the stems and caps.
Creamy Blewit Soup Recipe
For this recipe, you will need:
- 1 cup blewits, sliced thinly
- 1 Tablespoon shallots or onions, chopped
- 1 Tablespoon melted butter
- 1 cup half-and-half (half cream, half milk)
- 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 teaspoon anise extract
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
Step 1: Mix egg yolks and heavy cream together in a bowl. Set aside.
Step 2: Wash blewits and sauté them with the onions or shallots in a medium pan over medium heat. Sauté for about 2 minutes – you want to draw most of the liquid out of the blewits, but don’t let it all evaporate—transfer mixture into a large saucepan.
Step 3: Add the half-and-half anise, chicken or vegetable stock, salt, and pepper.
Step 4: Bring mixture up to heat, more at a simmer than a boil.
Step 5: Add egg yolk and cream mixture to thicken the soup. Stir slowly as you add it. Stop adding and stirring when the soup is almost at its desired consistency.
Step 5: Take the soup off the heat. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
Can I Preserve Wood Blewit Fungi?
Wood blewits can be pickled in white vinegar and olive oil after they’ve been blanched. They can also be dried and easily reconstituted before use.