Wood blewit (Lepista nuda)

These fungi are some of the trickiest for foraging beginners to identify as they change colour as they age from this vivid blue/purple to a brown-with-a-hint-of-lilac colour. They have an surprising flavour (a strongly floral mushroomy taste) which isn't to everyone's taste - much like Marmite, you either love them or loathe them. It is possible that their flavour changes with location or age as I have eaten delicious New Forest wood blewits but lunched on others in West Sussex that tasted unpleasantly soapy. If you like the taste then these mushrooms can be used in any general mushroom dish such as risotto or can be pickled for future months.

Key identification points:-
  • Gills:  blue/purple turning more beige as the mushrooms age
  • Cap: 3-15cm often with a wavy margin, start off purple/beige and become more and more brown as they age
  • Smell: floral or fruity, very pleasant, some find it reminiscent of frozen orange juice
  • Spore print: a key identification point to avoid confusion with other purple species. Guide books say that the spore print should be pink but this can be a little confusing as pink comes in many forms. The colour is very similar to traditional face powder, a pale pinky beige rather than a pure pink colour. If the spore print is a rusty ginger colour then you've probably found Violet webcams - see Look-a-Likes below.
  • Stem: 3-11cm, quite chunky with purple streaks running down them
  • Flesh: grey/white colour with purple splashes, tastes nutty
  • Habitat: woodland, parks, gardens, verges
  • Season: late autumn through to mid winter
  • Distribution: Common in most of the UK except the Scottish Highlands and north Wales

Look-a-likes to watch out for

Violet webcap (Cortinarinus violaceus)

Webcaps are a family of fungi that contain some pretty poisonous species and, whilst they aren't all poisonous, foragers avoid eating them as a whole to avoid any accidental problems.  Violet webcaps, like all the Cortinarinus family, have rusty, red brown spores so always check for these.  They also lack the lovely flowery/fruity smell of Wood blewits and are a deep violet colour in cap and flesh.
Also watch out for the Goatscheese webcap (Cortinarius camphoratus) and the Gassy webcap (C. traganus) both of which smell horrible.