Forage and Feast November

This month Dave Winnard has three mushroom species for you to forage for; two edible mushrooms and one to avoid - which seems to be having a very good year. Happy hunting.

Nature can be unpredictable, so when writing these blogs, I think about what species should be around that month, and then invariably nature ensures that doesn’t happen!

September was so dry, followed by a very wet October, both of which stop a lot of mushrooms from fruiting. We should still expect some of our usual November species, although as I write this do not blame me if we now have the hottest, wettest, windiest, coldest, driest, or snowiest November on record.

That being said, the following species should be easy to find, despite the weird weather. I have two edible mushrooms for you and one to avoid - which seems to be having a good year. So happy hunting.

Wherever you explore this month, only ever pick and eat something from the wild if YOU are 100% sure that YOU know what it is.

 

Field Blewit (Lepsita saeva)

Also known as Blue-leg or Pied Bleu in some cooking books, the Field Blewit is a look-a-like of the also edible Wood Blewit (Lepista nuda). The Field Blewit differs in just having a stem which is a lovely blue/purple colour (like deep bruising), while the rest of the mushroom is pale cream to buff, becoming slightly darker when very wet.

It is most commonly found in fields (no surprises there), but can be found under hedgerows near fields as well. The specimen I found recently, the one pictured, confused me as it’s not until you turn it over that its lovely ‘blue-leg’ becomes apparent. So from a distance this species can look almost non-descript, just of an off white mushroom growing in a field, so be careful not to overlook it.

The Wood Blewit doesn't have pale gills like the Field Blewit, instead it has purple gills with a beige, buff, brown, grey or even purple cap. Be aware that a few Cortinarius (Webcaps) species can have a lilac/purple stem, but these would also have coloured gills (lilac or ginger or both) whereas the Field Blewit has pale gills.The Cortinarius species also generally grow in woodlands rather than in fields. Another way to rule out if you have found a Cortinarius is to make a spore print which will yield a ginger spore print if it is a Cortinarius, while the Field Blewit will leave a pale pink colour. Simply remove the cap from the stem and place gill side down on a piece of paper, leave for a few hours and as the spores drop the colour of the spores will become obvious.

Ensure you cook this mushroom thoroughly as some people can react to it (try a little bit and see how you get on). Cooked thoroughly it is fine and it is sold in some supermarkets in Europe with the Wood Blewit too.

 

Winter Chanterelle (Craterellus tubaeformis)

These beautiful little mushrooms go by other names like Trumpet Chanterelle, but Winter Chanterelle is a better name, as it is often found towards winter.

In appearance these little gems share similar characteristics with the larger Chanterelle. They are slightly trumpet shaped and do not have ‘real’ gills, instead they have veins or ripples in the skin. Unlike their brighter big brother, they have a dull cap with a dingy brown/grey and a yellow stem. The colour of the stem can be well hidden when looking down on them from above, so despite the fact that they grow in large numbers, they can be well hidden.

Where do Winter Chanterelle hide? I most commonly encounter this species in Beech woods, sometimes I find them in a mixed wood, but usually there are beech trees there. They can be very well hidden as the colour blends in so well with the leaf litter.

Winter Chanterelle and other members of this family, like the Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius) or Amethyst Chanterelle (Cantharellus amethysteus), is a wonderful species to cook with. They often grow in vast numbers, so taking a few for the pot will have very little impact. The woodland near me has an area where there are well over 5000 fruiting bodies.

 

Rosy Bonnet (Mycena rosea)

I have decided to include a species to avoid this month, as this year the Rosy Bonnet has been very widespread in various areas (maybe it likes the weird weather). It is a poisonous species so not one to pick for the pot, but certainly one to seek out to admire its beauty.

A small member of the Mycena family, for a long time this was considered a colourful form of the Lilac Bonnet (Mycena pura). Actually the Rosy Bonnet is a very different colour and usually much bigger, though it is still quite small, growing to around 8cm maximum.  

Often found with Beech trees (a favoured tree of many mushrooms), it has a strong scent of radish. There are few species, if any, that you could confuse Rosy Bonnet with, but if you are out in the woods this month then it is certainly one to keep an eye out for. They often occur in small groups so do stand out, but no part of it is to be consumed.

 

Wherever you explore this month, only ever pick and eat something from the wild if YOU are 100% sure that YOU know what it is.