Yesterday I pulled off one of the mushroom hunter’s most self-glorifying and (unfortunately) rare of achievements – I found exactly what I set out to look for. It was a labour of love, mind you. Unsurprisigly, perhaps, December is not the best month for the mushroom hunter. Most fungi are sensible beings and keep their vulnerable fruit bodies (i.e. mushrooms) safely tucked up beneath the soil during the winter months. The Parasols have all ducked away for another year, and the Puffballs have all burst and dispersed their spores into the frozen winds. And even if you do come across anything mushroom-like still clinging on for dear life in the bitter chill of the forest floor, the chances are they will be soggy, rotten, crawling with maggots, or all three.
And so it was when I went out a-hunting for the tan and lilac treasures that are Wood Blewits. I came across many a mushroom, but nearly all were too saturated and soggy-sandwich-floppy to even consider identification, let alone eating. Then it rained. And then it hailed, and I spent a good twenty minutes cowering beneath a Holly Bush sheltering my wife’s terrifyingly expensive camera from the down-pour. Thankfully, it was just a (rather long) shower, and when I re-emerged it took me no time at all to stumble upon a patch of perfectly formed, tan and lilac Wood Blewits.
Blewits in general (for there are others apart from the Wood variety) are a gift from nature herself, as they almost single-handedly extend the mushroom hunter’s active-season sometimes right through into January. They are unflinching little soldiers that for some reason take favour in the nip and bite of late autumn and early winter (as must we if we are to enjoy them), and usually begin to appear just as everything else decides to call it a day for the year. And so, with a little persistence and tolerance of winter’s unforgiving weather, I’d soon gathered half a kilo of them – plenty to make a jar of one of my favourite preserves: Pickwits.
Identification & Links
Unfortunately there are some similar species that are very poisonous, so please see my Edible Mushrooms A-Z page for full description and pictures of Wood Blewits. And visit Wild Mushrooms Online, and Mushroom-Collecting.com for more.
Eating – Warning: Wood Blewits must be cooked before consumption
Wood Blewits are among my most favourite of all wild mushrooms. Not only does their colour add an immediate touch of almost floral intrigue to a dish, their strong mushroomy flavour and distinct warm-orange/wine-gum aroma is something truly special and a real winter treat. So fond am I, in fact, that I always preserve the first batch of Blewits that I gather, so that I may continue to enjoy them when they too have finally succumb to the hard frosts of mid-winter, and you can try my recipe for Pickled Blewits or ‘Pickwits‘ in my Preserves section. But, if pickled mushrooms aren’t your thing, check out my Frying Wild Mushrooms page for further inspiration. Or, even better, take a look at some of Girl Interrupted Eating’s ideas – yum yum.