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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.

It’s Miller time!

There’s a small stretch of coniferous woodland close to where I live, and over the years I have never seen such a variation of mushrooms, toadstools and fungi in such a relatively small place. Great stuff!

Clitopilus prunulusAnd today was no disappointment either. Poking out of above the leaves in a small clearing were the caps of a small group of Miller mushrooms (Clitopilus prunulus).

This was the first time I’d seen them here and I needed to check all characteristics of this wonderfully edible mushroom (as I always do) but especially this time as they were very close to the woodland/grassland border. The poisonous Fool’s Funnel (Clitocybe rivulosa) – a grassland species – is a sinister looking double for our tasty Miller mushroom.

The Miller has a pink spore print, so I also needed to be aware of confusion with other poisonous species with the same feature. For example, the Livid Pinkgill (Entoloma sinuatum), although not looking too similar, is quite an unpleasant toadstool.

The main identification markers were all there (see ID table below) – the size, the wavy irregular shape, the soft leathery (kid glove) texture, decurrent gills (that came away easily from the stem and cap), and of course the strong floury (mealy), raw pastry odour were all unmistakable.

The gills of this mushroom are initially white, then change to a mild pink colour as they mature (hence the pink spore print mentioned earlier). But to be on the safe side, I would always recommend you take a spore print (see how to make a spore print), just as I did, to doubly make sure.

Unfortunately these beauties were being systematically killed off inside from larvae infestation. They started at the base, munched up the stem and into the cap. I’m not sure if this killed off the spores developing properly or all spores had been shed (which I’m not convinced about), but not even a single spore had dropped to make any kind of print. Needless to say, I didn’t eat them, but then I couldn’t anyway – maggot munchies anyone!?

There should be more elsewhere or on the way soon. They can be found in small groups, and interestingly have some biological link with Ceps (Boletus edulis), so take a look around to see if there are any nearby. Good luck…

Miller mushroom - Clitopilus prunulus

The Miller (Clitopilus prunulus). Notice the wavy, irregular shape of the cap.

QUICK ID TABLE: THE MILLER Clitopilus prunulus

CAP / FLESH

3-10cm across. Convex then irregular and wavy. Soft leather feel. Inrolled margin. White to cream in colour.

STEM

1.5cm x 0.4-1.2cm. Same colour as cap. Usually off-centre attachment to cap.

GILLS / SPORE PRINT

Decurrent. White then pink. Easily removed.
Spore Print: Pink (see how to take a spore print here).

HABITAT / SEASON

Grass in open woodland. Summer – late autumn.

EDIBILITY

Edible and good.