November Foraging: Wood Blewits

Pick your own gourmet mushrooms

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Hayley Bisofsky Pope
Cornwall dweller, lifestyle blogger and founder of The Little Naturalists Club
6 November 2022

Wood Blewits are a fabulous gourmet mushroom that can be foraged anytime after the first frost. Technically, they can grow as soon as the temperature drops below 17 degrees but I tend to believe that they like it a little colder than that.

Timing it right

A few years ago the first frost hit us early and hard in the first week of September and we were able to forage these mushrooms from September all the way up until the new year. Last year the frosts didn’t arrive until the 2nd week in November and the mushrooms had disappeared from all my usual spots by the first week in December – making it a a very short season for these mushrooms.

The seasons are fickle for these stunning lilac coloured fungi but one thing is for sure, no matter how long or how short their season is they are always a welcomed delight to my foraging basket in the cold winter months when there’s not much else about.

Old folklore

They have an occasional habit of growing in rings, called fairy rings and European folklore will have you believe that it’s inside these rings that fairies, pixies and elves would meet and dance in the woods.

Others believed that these rings were a portal between the fairy world and the human world and some cultures believed that anyone entering them would be unable to escape the ring and would be instantly transported to the fairy realms.

(image credit: wildfooduk.com)

Identifying them correctly

Where to find them
They are widespread across Cornwall. They love leaf litter, coniferous and deciduous woodland, grassland and under hedgerows. My favourite place to spot them is on the headlands that slope facing north.

Appearance
They are chunky looking with a blue-lilac tinge on the cap that can fade to a light browny grey. The tightly packed and crowded gills grow into the stalk and are blue/lilac. These mushrooms can be easily confused with the poisonous Cortinarius Genus but these smell unpleasant and spores are rust brown whereas the spores of Wood Blewits are pale pink. You can often see the rust brown spores on the gills of Cortinarius as well as down the stem where they have landed.

(image credit: wildfooduk.com)

Cooking your collection

Wood Blewits need to be thoroughly cooked as they have been known to cause reactions in people when they are slightly raw. They are a gourmet mushroom and bring prices of £80 a kilo in London markets. They have a distinctive, strong flavour and smell faintly of aniseed. They are excellent in stews, pasta, risotto but my favourite is a chicken and mushroom pie served with a healthy dollop of mash potato and some garlic sautéed sea spinach or tender stem broccoli.

As with all wild mushrooms it’s really important that you don’t eat anything unless you are 100% sure of what you are eating and have confirmed its identity across a couple of books and maybe even run it by a few experts too. Even when you’re sure what you have is Wood Blewits it’s always best to sample any new mushroom (or any foraged wild ingredient for that matter) in small doses first and check for any allergies or stomach disruptions.

Happy foraging!

(image credit: wildfooduk.com)