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The November 2010 Mushroom of the Month was...

Lepista nuda, the Blewit

Clitocybe nuda Clitocybe nuda - the Blewit

The common name for a popular, excellent edible mushroom, Blewit, is believed to be a corruption of the name “Blue hat” referring to the bluish purple colored caps of these mushrooms. This is one of the few mushrooms given a common name by the mycophobic British. Blewits have quite a number of scientific name synonyms in the literature even before DNA analysis places it somewhere else. The blewits have the following synonyms: Lepista nuda, Clitocybe nuda (currently favored), Tricholoma nudum, Rhodopaxillus nudus, and erroneously Tricholoma personatum. I’m often amused when mycologists urge us to always use scientific names because they are more constant than the common names. There are good reasons for using the scientific names but constancy is certainly not one of them especially as the results of DNA analysis are now creeping into taxonomy.

Blewit in need litter

This blewit was found growing under conifers. Note all the decaying needles.

Blewits have a cap that ranges from two to six inches wide, that is at first lilac colored but which soon becomes tan-like to flesh-colored to brown with light purplish tones near the rim of the cap. The cap has an in-rolled margin when young and is dome shaped when young flattening out with age. The sometimes wavy margin can become upturned with age. The gills are attached adnate to adnexed or notched and are purple to bluish purple when fresh which soon fades to pinkish brown with some purple overtones with age. The stem is 1 ½ to 3 inches tall and ½ to 1 inch wide with a bulbous base. The stem is fibrillose and colored like the gills. The spore print is dull pink to pinkish buff. Blewits grow scattered to gregarious in woods, leaf piles, compost piles, and gardens. It is found in deciduous woods and coniferous woods. The flesh of blewits is thick and firm, purple to bluish purple becoming grayish in age. The odor of blewits is very fruity, almost perfumed.

Blewits are an excellent edible with firm flesh and a rich flavor. They often have a high water content so starting with a dry sauté like one does with chanterelles is recommended. Blewits are quite versatile and can be used in many kinds of mushroom recipes. A recipe, Cordon Blewit, attributed to Arleen Bessette in Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America by David Fischer and Alan Bessette, features whole sautéed blewit caps forming the outer layers of a sandwich with sautéed veal scaloppini covered with smoked ham and Swiss cheese as the filling.

Wood blewit

Clitocybe nuda - the Blewit

Blewits do have some nasty look-alikes. Inocybe lilacina is a poisonous purple mushroom with brownish gills and brown spores that looks a bit like a Blewit. There are a number of Cortinarius species that are purple colored with purple colored gills when young. The Cortinarius species have a cobwebby veil when young, eventually rust brown gills and rust brown spores often evidenced by being caught on the remnants of the veil on the stem. Some of the Cortinarius species are poisonous. Blewits do have a distinct shape and color pattern but it is hard to describe. This is a mushroom that takes field experience to learn. None of the poisonous look-alikes are deadly poisonous but no one wants an episode similar to food poisoning.