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Mushroom of the Woods – Blushing Wood Mushroom

One of my nearby local parks has a great selection of tree species, scattered beautifully across its modest expanse. It was here that I came across a mushroom more typically found in a woodland setting.

Blushing Wood MushroomAlthough not in woodland, these Blushing Wood Mushrooms (Agaricus silvaticus) had set a comfy foothold near several coniferous trees, enough to satisfy their happy mychorizzal relationship. They were scattered in a small group, so I didn’t want to over pick, just wanted sample a few of these edible and ‘good’ mushrooms.

These mushrooms are quite easy to miss as the scaly ochre-brown caps tend to blend into the background of soil and fallen needles. Luckily, a few tufts of grass helped me spot them easily.

Initially I discovered the larger, more mature examples growing at my feet, with brown/dark brown crowded gills under wide, flat caps; up to 10cm across. So I sought out the younger specimens nearby to see what I was dealing with.

After seeing the reddening on the damaged and exposed flesh, the colour of the gills (pale in young to darker brown when mature), I knew it was an Agaricus species. Iinitially I wasn’t 100% sure it was A.silvaticus because I knew the Scaly Wood Mushroom (Agaricus langei) was so similar. Also, I’d only ever seen A.silvaticus before in woodland scenarios. But this A.langei lookalike was slightly bugging me; its flesh also turns red on cutting/exposing the flesh, but happening more slowly. In the end I was satisfied it was A.silvaticus because the reddening here occurred much quicker. And from a foragers point of view, being unsure whether it was either of the two, they are both edible and good. A smell test will help confirm too; the more stocky A.langei has a distinctive pleasant ‘mushroomy’ smell where as the Blushing Wood mushroom is nothing special – quite bland and indistinctive.

Edibility with surprising health benefits

I wanted to find out more about their edibility, possibly to find any recipes that may be floating around the internet. I know many edible mushrooms are very nutritional, and some which have very impressive health benefits. But I didn’t suspect this species was one of them.

As part of a balanced diet, Blushing Wood Mushrooms are being used to help in the recovery of cancer patients. Along with a high proportion of protein, they also contains a high content of essential minerals, making it a very effective supplement with great antioxidant power. To read further see the article on ‘Wild Foodism’: What Agaricus silvaticus, The Blushing Wood Mushroom, Does For Cancer Patients.

With health benefits like this, it makes things all the better – they were a tasty addition to my fry up (or grill up – doing my best to be extra healthy – or not!). But I must apologise because this has been a delayed post, and if you’re reading it close to when published (ie. late November) you may have to wait until next summer/autumn for a chance to find them again. Sorry!

Agaricus silvaticus

Blushing Wood Mushroom – Agaricus silvaticus. Notice the reddening of the flesh, which eventually turns brown.

QUICK ID TABLE: BLUSHING WOOD MUSHROOM Agaricus silvaticus

CAP / FLESH

5-11cm across, covered in light brown fibrils which expand into larger soft flat scales. Initially rounded, expanding flat. Flesh is white, quickly turning red when cut. Bland, indistinctive smell.

STEM

5-8cm x 1-1.2cm. Whitish. Ring 3/4 up, sometimes with brown fibrous scales beneath.

GILLS / SPORE PRINT

Pale when young, then reddish, eventually brown at maturity.
Spore Print: Brown (see how to take a spore print here).

HABITAT / SEASON

In mixed woods, or parks near trees. Summer to autumn.

EDIBILITY

Edible and good.

LOOKALIKES

Scaly Wood Mushroom (A. langei)

The Genus AGARICUS (Wood Mushrooms/Mushrooms): Characteristics to look out for:

• Many discolour yellowish, reddish or pinkish when cut or bruised.
• Those that discolour bright/chrome yellow should be avoided for consumption.
• Gills in young specimens are often pink (white in a few) – maturing darker brown.
• Make note of any smells, such as aniseed or a typical strong ‘supermarket’ mushroom smell.

Fool me once… The False Chanterelle

I love to feature all the lovely wild edible mushrooms I find (when I get the precious time), but every so often I have to include those annoying ‘look-a-likes’ so that we can all be aware of and be prepared for such party poopers!

Hygrophoropsis aurantiacaThe False Chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca) is a very common and strikingly colourful mushroom, predominantly found in small to large groups, mainly in coniferous woodland. They can also be found on heathland too.

Although this mushroom is mainly an autumn species, I have often found it during late summer (just like the true Chanterelle) around early August, hence the reason I’m featuring it now at the end of July.

Myself and many other people have made the same mistake in thinking their luck was in – “Chanterelles – Fantastic”. Oh, how wrong we were. The Chanterelle (Chantharellus cibarius) has the same fruiting season (including late summer), habitat (as well as deciduous woods) and general size and appearance.

And as always, the devil is in the detail when distinguishing between the two. Size-wise, they can be very close, but other feature differences would seem quite obvious if you had either species side by side. But if you’re unfamiliar with both, then here’s what to look out for:

1. The Colour: The False Chanterelle tends to be a deeper Orange-Yellow compared to lighter egg yoke yellow of the True Chanterelle.

2. The Cap: The False Chanterelle has a fine ‘downy’ surface texture (esp. when younger). The True Chanterelle has a more distinctive ‘irregular’ wavy and lobed shape all round the edge.

3. The Gills: Although they both extend down the stem, The True Chanterelle has ‘false’ gills which are thicker and more fleshy.

4. The Smell: The False Chanterelle has a ‘mushroomy’ smell while the True Chanterelle has a very distinctive fruity, apricot-like odour.

3. Spore Print: To double check, you can take a spore print – False Chanterelle = white / True Chanterelle = Yellow/ochre.

Unfortunately, I don’t currently have any (True) Chanterelle images to show in comparison. I will add when I can at a later date of course.

The False Chanterelle has been known to be edible just like the True Chanterelle, but obviously not as superior in flavour etc. Some reference books have labelled it as harmless, but even though it isn’t deadly there have been reports from some people suffering unpleasant or alarming hallucinations. So I would recommend that nobody eat this mushroom.

And to finish, by adding confusion to the confusion, there’s are ‘look-a-like’ to this ‘look-a-like’ which I think most people in Southern Europe should be concerned about. The Jack o’ Lantern Mushroom (Omphalotus olearius) has patchy distribution throughout Southern Europe (with rare sightings in UK and Northern Europe). Again, it looks very similar to the True and False Chanterelles but is definitely posionous. Have no fear though, these guys usually grow in tight groups on living or dead wood of deciduous trees (from the underground roots) so that rules out the others and the major feature the Jack o’ Lantern has is that it’s (mature) gills have an amazing phosphorescent property and glow very bright green in the dark. This I know only from research and I would love to find some and see the effect in action. So that’s a good excuse for a holiday in Southern Europe then aye!?

Keep your eyes out this Late summer/autumn time and I hope your Chanterelle hunting moments don’t get ruined by this naughty twin.

Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca

QUICK ID TABLE: FALSE CHANTERELLE Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca

CAP / FLESH

2 -8 cm diametrre. Convex to funnel shaped. Often inrolled at the edge (margin). Orange-Yellow.

STEM

3 – 5 cm x 0.5 – 1cm. Often curved. Same colour or darker than cap.

GILLS / SPORE PRINT

Decurrent, forked. Orange, thin and crowded.
Spore Print: White (see how to take a spore print here).

HABITAT / SEASON

Coniferous woods, heaths. Very common. Late summer – autumn.

EDIBILITY

Said to be edible but reports of hallucinations recorded.