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The Complete Guide to Blewit Mushrooms
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The Complete Guide to Blewit Mushrooms

Julian Selemin
Julian Selemin
January 19, 2024
8 min

Purple is relatively rare in nature, sparsely appearing in specific plants, fruits, flowers, and insects. And that’s precisely what makes blewit mushrooms so unique—their distinctive shades of lilac make them rank very highly among the most beautiful mushrooms worldwide.

But that’s not all. Blewit fungi are also known to be incredibly delicious with a sophisticated nutty taste and thick texture. Furthermore, recent research shows it could be a valuable tool for treating cancer, diabetes, and other conditions. Here’s what you need to know.

What are blewit mushrooms?

Blewit mushrooms, scientifically known as Clitocybe nuda, are an edible species native to Europe and North America. Widely considered one of the most beautiful species worldwide, blewit fungi are famous for their distinctive purple, lilac, and lavender color.

The species is also sometimes referred to as Lepista nuda instead of Clitocybe nuda—while this would usually indicate a different fungus, it’s considered a synonym in this case. As for the common name, blewit mushrooms are also nicknamed:

  • Wood blewit
  • Blue foot
  • Blue hat (or cap)
  • Blue leg

Blewit mushrooms usually grow in woods, grasslands, and even urban settings, often preferring to fruit during the colder months. While this shroom is widespread in North America and Europe, it’s also possible to find it in South America, Asia, and Oceania (1).

C. nuda is considered to be a delicious mushroom, with a fruity aroma and taste that’s sure to stand out from other ingredients in your dishes. The texture is thick and moist, and the specimens are preserved well when cooked and frozen or when dried (2).

However, it’s crucial to know that C. nuda contains a toxic compound that can cause gastric discomfort if eaten in large quantities. While cooking removes the toxicity, the species is also known to cause allergic reactions in certain people (2) (3).

How does blewit mushroom look?

Blewit mushroom

Blewit mushrooms have a 3–12 cm (1.2–4.7 in) convex cap with an inrolled margin that turns almost entirely flat as the mushroom ages. The stem or stipe usually measures 4–6 cm (1.6–2.3 in), sometimes becoming enlarged towards the base. The gills are thin and close to each other, and the mycelium ranges from white to pale purple.

The dull, pale purple color shows in pretty much the whole mushroom. Brown shades tend to appear in older specimens, and the gills also fade to a tan hue with age. Surprisingly, however, the spore print isn’t purple but pale pink (1) (2).

What are the varieties of blewit mushrooms?

Close up shot of a blewit mushroom

There aren’t any known varieties, strains, or subspecies of C. nuda. However, the species is often confused with other closely related mushrooms—some of which aren’t edible. As such, it’s essential to be aware of them before hunting for wood blewits (4).

Clitocybe sordida is a perfect example of this. The species looks almost entirely the same but is usually smaller. However, there’s little to no information regarding the edibility of these fungi. The same is also true for Clitocybe glaucocana—a blewit lookalike that doesn’t feature the brown shades.

Another common species that gets confused with C. nuda is Clitocybe personata, which features a white cap and a purple stem. But unlike the previous two species, C. personata is as edible as C. nuda.

Certain Cortinarius species are also similar to C. nuda, and many of them are toxic and inedible. The easiest way to tell them apart is by the spores—Cortinarius mushrooms show a rusty brown spore print instead of a pink one (1).

While these similar species are often confused for varieties of C. nuda, it’s crucial to remember that they aren’t the only lookalikes out there. If you’re new to picking fungi, it’s best not to eat wild blewit mushrooms unless you’re under the close supervision of a professional.

History of blewit mushrooms

5 blewit mushrooms

Blewit mushroom patches sometimes grow in circles called “fairy rings” (not to be confused with the actual fairy ring mushroom). Despite their seemingly cute name, fairy rings have spawned dozens of folklore tales involving witches, elves, and other mythological creatures—and not in the best way.

According to European folklore, fairy rings are created by the dancing of fairies and witches. Naive humans who would dare to trespass the ring were severely punished with the loss of an eye. More extreme beliefs even involved the trespasser being forced to dance with the creatures until they turned to dust.

Other traditions associated fairy rings with other causes, such as lightning strikes and elves’ spittle. In the Netherlands, these beautiful patches were thought to be the work of devils and dragons (5).

Luckily, these tales faded with time, and science made its first contact with blewit fungi in 1790, when French mycologist Pierre Bulliard first described the species. However, he originally called it Agaricus nudus.

Almost 100 years later, in 1871, mycologists Paul Kummer and Mordecai Cubitt moved it over to the genus Trichholoma and Lepista, respectively. Unfortunately, they were unaware of each other, leading to endless discussions regarding the correct classification.

In 1961, Howard Bigelow and Alexander Smith sought to end the dispute by reclassifying the fungus to the Clitocybe genus. But the discussions are yet to be over—almost 250 years after the initial description, we still use two different names for the same species (4)! 

Health benefits of blewit mushrooms

Blue foot mushrooms

Wood blewit mushrooms are part of what’s often known as functional fungi—mushrooms with significant health and nutritional values. But, unlike most mushrooms we’ve covered so far, research on the species is few and far between.

Nutritionally, dry blewit mushrooms comprise 20% protein, 3% fat, 71% carbohydrates, and 6% ash. A 100-gram serving of C. nuda only contains about 341 calories—a low number even when compared to other fungi. We couldn’t find any literature concerning the micronutrients present in the species (6).

As for its health benefits, C. nuda is currently being studied for its antiangiogenic properties. Antiangiogenic refers to a specific type of cancer treatment that utilizes certain compounds to inhibit the growth of new blood vessels. In turn, this helps starve tumors of nutrients and oxygen.

A 2023 study shows that three compounds present in C. nuda (ergothioneine, eritadenine, and adenosine) were able to inhibit tumor growth. Yet, it’s essential to remember that this study was done on zebrafish—at present, no human studies exist (7).

An older 2014 paper reviewed two other possible benefits of C. nuda: its antidiabetic and antihyperlipidemic effects. The authors claim that blewit extract prevented sudden increases in blood glucose, triglyceride, and insulin levels. At the same time, it reduced insulin resistance. This makes it a promising tool for treating cholesterol-related conditions and diabetes (8).

However, the lack of research on humans means there’s still a long way to go before the species is considered a medical treatment. If you want to use blewit fungi to treat a specific condition, check with a doctor first.

Where do blewit mushrooms grow?

Lepista nuda

Blewit mushrooms are widespread in Europe and North America but may also appear in Asia, Oceania, and South America. They prefer colder climates where they can fruit during summer and fall. They can also grow in warmer areas—although the fruiting bodies may only appear during the winter months.

C. nuda is a saprobic mushroom, meaning that it feeds on dead or decaying organic material, such as leaf litter. As such, it’s common to find it in woods, grasslands, and compost heaps. It’s also possible to observe it in more urban areas—especially where there’s wood chip mulch, such as home gardens (1).

These wonderful purple mushrooms can grow alone or in large groups that cover wide areas. They can form fairy rings, but that’s not always the case. As such, try not to identify them by their growth pattern. Many mushrooms can grow in circles, but not all are edible!

What is ethical wildcrafting?

Ethical wildcrafting refers to a series of guidelines designed to help you harvest natural resources without damaging the environment. Wildcrafting is often confused with foraging—the key difference is that the former refers to harvesting for medicinal purposes and the latter for eating.

Unfortunately, newcomers to the mushroom world are often unaware of these guidelines, leading to damage to local animal, tree, and mushroom species. Fortunately, practicing ethical wildcrafting is as simple as remembering these guidelines:

  • Research the desired species before heading out—take note of any possible endangered or similar-looking poisonous mushrooms you may come across.
  • Carry a mushroom field guide—cheap and easy to find, these handy identification guides can teach you a lot about the ecosystem and your desired species.
  • Pick the mushrooms gently—use your hands to remove the fruiting bodies, and only use scissors and knives when necessary.
  • Avoid overharvesting—take only what you need, and don’t share patch locations with others.
  • Be aware of the legality surrounding harvesting—ask for permission from the owner if you’re harvesting on private land or check local regulations if on public land.

If it’s your first time hunting mushrooms, we recommend you look for harvesting groups in your area. Veteran fungi lovers will usually be more than glad to show you the ropes!

Is it safe to wildcraft for Clitocybe nuda?

It’s never 100% safe to eat wild-picked mushrooms. There’s always the risk of coming across a non-edible lookalike, which could lead to gastric discomfort or more severe side effects. The most infamous lookalikes for C. nuda are species from the Cortinarius genus—which share the same pinkish or purplish color but are toxic.

Furthermore, wild mushrooms sometimes carry toxins from the environment. While cleaning the fungi thoroughly should remove these pathogens, ingesting them can lead to upset stomach and other gastric problems.

How do you take blewit mushrooms?

Blue foot mushrooms on a table

C. nuda is a very versatile mushroom, widely considered one of the most delicious functional fungi out there. Renowned chef Antonio Carlucci describes it as excellent to eat and satisfying to cook. The texture is thick and somewhat silky, and the flavor is earthy and fragrant, with subtle bitter and nutty notes.

Chicken with blewit fungi

A delicious yet simple recipe, chicken with blewits is as simple as sautéeing the mushrooms with thyme in a medium skillet along with some olive oil and butter. Once browned, discard the thyme and set aside. Sauté the chicken with salt and pepper and pour in some broth once it’s browned. Simmer for 30 minutes and discard the broth. Finally, serve everything with cream and vegetables.

Sautéed blewits with shallots

To sauté blewits, start by heating a large pan while you wash and cut the mushrooms. Throw them in until they wilt—at that point, add some oil and keep cooking until they’re well-colored. Finally, add the shallots and some tarragon, cook for a few more minutes, season to taste, and serve.

As always, don’t be afraid to experiment. Blewit fungi are known to be highly versatile and beginner-friendly—but remember to cook them thoroughly. We recommend trying them with other delicious species, such as oyster, button, and shiitake mushrooms.

Blewit mushrooms: Purple perfection

Blewit mushrooms are some of the most beautiful fungi you can find in North America and Europe. Their purple shades, sophisticated flavor, and thick texture make them a top choice among veteran and novice mushroom lovers alike. But don’t forget to cook them properly as raw blewits contain a mild toxin that can lead to gastric upset.

Keep up on shroomer to find out all the latest news about psychedelic and functional fungi. We cover everything from portobellos to magic mushrooms, so you’ll be sure to find something that intrigues you.

References

  1. Michael Kuo. “Clitocybe nuda.” MushroomExpert.com (2022). https://www.mushroomexpert.com/clitocybe_nuda.html
  2. Antonio Carlucci. “Lepista nuda.” in Complete Mushroom Book: The Quiet Hunt (2003): 58–59.
  3. Missouri Department of Conservation. “Blewit.” (Last accessed September 6, 2023). https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/blewit
  4. Mycobank. “Clitocybe nuda.” (Last accessed September 6, 2023). https://www.mycobank.org/page/Name%20details%20page/209117
  5. Adrian Morgan. Toads and Toadstools: The Natural History, Folklore, and Cultural Oddities of a Strange Association (1995): 11–31.
  6. Pavel Kalac. Edible Mushrooms: Chemical Composition and Nutritional Value (2016): 11.
  7. Dhanashri Deshmukh, Ya Fen Hsu, Chien-Chih Chiu, Mahendra Jadhao. “Antiangiogenic potential of Lepista nuda extract suppressing MAPK/p38 signaling-mediated developmental angiogenesis in zebrafish and HUVECs.” Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy 159(1) (2023): 114219. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopha.2023.114219
  8. Mei-Hsing Chen, Cheng-Hsiu Lin, Chun-Ching Shih. “Antidiabetic and Antihyperlipidemic Effects of Clitocybe nuda on Glucose Transporter 4 and AMP-Activated Protein Kinase Phosphorylation in High-Fat-Fed Mice.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2014): 981046. https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/981046

Fact Checked: Mar Yvette


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ShroomWiki
Julian Selemin

Julian Selemin

Content Writer

Table Of Contents

1
What are blewit mushrooms?
2
What are the varieties of blewit mushrooms?
3
History of blewit mushrooms
4
Health benefits of blewit mushrooms
5
Where do blewit mushrooms grow?
6
How do you take blewit mushrooms?
7
Blewit mushrooms: Purple perfection

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