I have a confession to make. One of the things I have been doing in these monthly blog articles is to create an army of people who gain a greater understanding of some of the species on their doorstep, whether they are edible or not.
This has paid off, a number of you have been in touch or even come on events and told me about some of the interesting species you have found, including a chap who was inspired to go and look for some fungi and found a grassland filled with important species.
Important because they are indicators of quality grassland and so we can then inform the relevant authorities of the importance of the site and offer it more protection. All because one person originally saw some mushrooms in his garden and wondered if he could eat them. Foraging is a backdoor in to wider conservation and getting people fascinated with fungi and plants.
The weird weather continues with a very warm start to November so there are lots of fungi still fruiting you can go and look for.
So this month I have a few species of fungi I want you to go out and look for, one happens to be edible but is confused a lot at this time of year and two others will need searching out but are highly rewarding to find and you can look in urban areas or the moorland edges if you want. As always though, if you do forage, only ever pick and eat something YOU know 100% you know what it is.
Sordid Blewit (Lepsita sordida)
This beautiful little species is a species that is often confused for its bigger brother the Wood Blewit (Lepista nuda), which is commonly eaten. Caution has to be taken with this family, some people suffer with some gastric upsets from eating Blewits and it is advised you always cook them thoroughly first. That said both the Wood Blewit and the Sordid Blewit are some of my favourites as they have a nice flavour and texture and I have never had any problems, m but if you are new to them, try a little and see how you get on.
The Blewits can be late species, it is not uncommon to find them well in to January in some years, and they grow in a variety of habitats from upland grassland areas to parks, cemeteries and gardens. The Sordid Blewit is similar to the Wood Blewit and is generally small and more delicate than the more sturdy Wood Blewit, with usually a brighter purple/pink colour to it, but large Sordid Blewits and Small Wood Blewits when they overlap can be awkward to identify, in terms of foraging they both taste the same, as long as try a little bit and cook it thoroughly.
There are potentially a few look a likes, the Rosy Bonnet is bright pink and smells of radish, which the Sordid Blewit does not, and the Rosy Bonnet is poisonous. Some of the Webcaps (Cortinarius) can be purple/lilac in colours, but hey have ginger spores, so if in doubt you can always leave the cap on a piece of paper for a few hours and as the spores drop you will see their colour on paper, ginger leave alone.
Olive Earthtongue (Microglossum olivaceum)
I would be very, very interested to know if anyone finds this, it is a species that if you find it then you know you are in good (or at least old) grassland. Many of our grassland species have declined as we abuse the habitat, we put chemicals on them, graze them too much and just generally not look after them and as a result many fungi (and indeed plants) have declined because of this. You find the Olive Earthtongue in old upland grasslands that have not been treated with chemicals over the years, or in churchyards, nice mossy lawns in peoples garden so you can find this is urban areas too.
There are a number of this weird Earthtongues, many just black in colour or dark brown and often require a microscope to identify them, but the Olive Earthtongue is a bit more distinctive, with a browner top half and a lovely greeny/blue colour on the stem.
It is rare (and not edible if you are wondering), but the more pair of eyes looking for this little fungus, then the more we are likely to discover it and find important sites we did not know about. So if you find a nice old mossy bit of grass area in your local park, cemetery or if you are in the uplands, then it is worth a look down to try and find this little beauty. It is not very bigger, 2cm in height is probably as big as they get and sometimes most of that is sunken in amongst the moss.
*For now I am keeping the scientific name Microglossum olivaceum as there is constant updates on the name and more species are being discovered in this section of fungi, most books commonly sold refer to this scientific name, so for ease we will use it here.
Pink Waxcap (Porpolomopsis calyptriformis)
The Waxcaps are one of my favourite groups of mushrooms, they come in an array of colours and can be incredibly numerous in some areas. This one, sometimes referred to as The Ballerina, is one of the more striking of them and like the Olive Earthtongue, is often an indicator of good habitat.
This is another species out now and will continue to be well in to December and shares the same habitats as the Earthtongue as well. I have found them from urban parks and cemeteries all the way up to high moorland grassland. The pointed cap, which is always bright pink and white stem are very distinctive and identification should pose no problem.
Again, people are finding this and not realising how important that data could be, so if you have found it this year you can get in touch with your local record centres and pass the good news on. It use to be considered a rare species, and it was a red letter day if you went on a foray and found one, now it seems to be less rare as we understand where it grows and with more people looking we have found it in far more places, but if you do find it, you should be excited, its a fabulous find.
The best part is, looking for this species, or any of the other species we have discussed here, you will be finding lots of other species as that’s the nature of fungi, seek and you shall be rewarded.
So good luck on your fungi forays, do let us know if you find any of them and as always, enjoy your walks, potters, jaunts and adventures in to whatever.