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.
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, 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 a grab some tarragon.
It’s official now (Oct 1, 2014); September 2014 was the driest month in recorded history at the Knoxville weather station (airport) with a total of only 0.19 inches of rain. Still, last week I posted on finding oysters. Yesterday I saw a few more that were probably last week’s also, but surprisingly I found a chicken of the woods, Laetiporus sulphureus, that weighed 1 1/2 lbs. I thought about leaving it a day because it was so fresh, but underneath I could see insects just starting to find it. It was growing on a very punky stump remnant that had left a hole in the ground which may have served as a catchment, much like a cistern, and then the punky stump sequestered moisture like a sponge. Who knows, but I was certainly surprised.
About an hour after harvesting this one, I ran into a fellow who had just picked what looked like a 4-5 lbs chicken, Laetiporus cincinnatus, from someone’s yard. So, both species of chicken were found in the middle of a severe rain deficit, the same day. Nighttime temps have been holding in the 60′s and highs low 80′s. Go figure.
Rain is predicted for Friday, 1/2″ to 1.0″. Then lows will drop into high 40′s with highs around 70 for several days. There should be some mushroom fruiting simply because of the drastic change. Sexual reproduction, in natural sytems, is generally in response to change in external conditions, while asexual reproduction occurs in the presence of optimal conditions. So, be on the lookout here in the Valley. We’ll see happens next week.
That’s right. When I first began this blog, I lamented how I believed that I had collected all the decent edible mushrooms in the Great Valley except Grifola frondosa or Hen of the Woods. The wait is over. I found this 3-pounder a couple of days ago. It was about three feet from the base of a very alive white oak. Between this one and the white oak was another Hen. That one, however, was a bit older, and I could only salvage about a 1/4/ lb.
Oh well, I’ll be looking here next year ! This was a large tree, 20-inches or more in diameter, so surely it can support a BIG one. For now, however, I am quite happy with this one.