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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wood Blewitts and Alexanders

I went down the notment a couple of days ago as its the change of season and its time to check up.

I found all the little herbs I planted doing well under their woolly blanket, and the big dominating original plants that were so enormous in the summer, dying back and shrivelling. The Alexanders were fallen, rotting already, but there were masses of baby ones coming which is perfect for harvesting so I got a good crop of those as well as some very lush and think dandelion leaves for a nice salad. The Alexanders are rather strong flavoured to eat in quantity but they were excellent chopped up small with a beetroot salad.

As I cleared away the burdock, getting burrs all over my woollens, and the nettles, and the big Alexanders (fallen), I found a big collection of purpley-brown mushrooms. They smelt heavenly, a very strong mushroomy smell like oyster mushrooms and at first I thought that's what they were. Really the scent made me want to eat them right there and then, its was very powerful.

But closer up they obviously werent that, so i took one home to identify and pored over my books and left it on a black paper to see the spore colour. It looked promisingly like a Wood Blewitt but could have also been something nasty called a Silky Pinkgill, so as always with a new mushroom a certain sense of adventure fell upon me.

I checked the books and they gave rather unclear and conflicting information, and online I fared no better. Adding up all the evidence and trying to make sense of it (what is a 'mealy' smell? Is the Silky Pinkgill poisonous or not? What is the difference between 'pink' and 'pale pink' spores? Does it matter that my mushrooms stems didnt look as fat? Why does only one of the books mention Lapista sordida?) I decided that I was 90% sure it was OK.

So I cooked them up in copious quantities of butter (the books say you must cook your wood blewitts), and served them to my family to see what would happen... they cam e with a warning so in the end it was only me and my father who actually tasted them, and in very small doses, and mum reminded us that only one mushroom can actually kill you, so it was fine, and they tasted fab.

This morning I had no ill efects at all so I have eaten the ret of the mushrooms along with the remains of the chicken stew which was very delivious but even better with the mushies.

And now that I check up on Lepista sordida, I actually think that is the mushroom I have been eating, and apparently it is uncommon. This is very exciting because I almost have never found uncommon things and most things always turn out to be something incredibly normal. The picture on the link really does look most exactly like my mushrooms. I'm sorry to say I didn't take my own pics this time but will try to get there tomorrow in daylight and photo the little ones that are left.

So here's to the notment and its amazing and unexpected autumnal offerings - for which I had to merely turn up. (Well there was a certain amount of nettle root pulling but that is all part of the fun.)

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