Twenty years ago Coleman McCleneghan piqued my interest in mushrooms. That fall, I discovered a complete fairy ring of Wood Blewits around a medium sized cedar tree in a local cemetery. I e-mailed her, all excited, and she said “Too bad!” Why? “That’s the signal that mushroom season is about over where you are.” I hope that’s not always true, because I am finding them now, and Honey Mushrooms are just beginning to show buttons, six weeks later than last year. I found these yesterday.
A good description of Blewits, Clitocybe nuda, AKA Lepista nuda can be found at: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/clitocybe_nuda.html. In addition to Michael Kuo’s description, Bill Roody, Mushrooms of West Virginia and the Central Appalachians, notes that they can be found in rings. My experience is varied, but I have a tip if you want to find some, and don’t know where to look – look for a dead hardwood tree, preferably oak, that is “shedding” its bark in a pile at the tree base. Blewits LOVE that debris, and if you turn the slabs of bark over you may find mycelial mats that will amaze you. Sometimes you can see the Blewits growing right out of the mat (below)
I’ve been reading some discussions on the Asheville Mushroom Club forum, and it seems others are currently finding them. True, a beginner must be sensitive to possible confusion with several species of the Cortinarius genus, but check the spore print (picture left), don’t eat singles (pick when they are in groups). Even then, I have found a batch that were difficult to distinguish because the caps fade with maturity and the gills also turn more brownish. This is a cropped section of a spore print made on aluminum foil. To my eye, it fits Kuo’s description exactly.
Edibility? My experience is that it’s a matter of personal preference. Google “wood blewit recipe”. http://www.mushroomtable.com/recipes_blewits.html has several and The Forager Chef at http://foragerchef.com/sauteed-blewits-shallots-and-tarragon/ has several good recipes. I’m going to try one my self, after I go out in my garden and grab some tarragon.
UPDATE: The sauté with shallots and tarragon was very good.