This mushroom species is popularly named blewit due to the fruiting bodies with a striking blue or purple color. In Old English, blewit was a contraction of the terms blue hat. At maturity, the caps are no longer blue and become brown. The gills and sometimes the flesh can retain some traces of the initial purple color.
Normally, the cap of the blewit is between 2 and 6 inches in diameter and has a striking violet color. It transforms from a convex shape to a flat one and eventually resembles a funnel. The mushroom doesn't have any rings on the thick stems.
It is a saprobic species that grows in various ways, it can be found alone, in small groups or large clusters. Blewits live both in forests and urban environments. They enjoy cold weather, being common during the fall. Blewit mushrooms are widespread in North America.
Blewit mushrooms are commonly found under the leaves of oak trees. If a layer of duff or wood debris is available, a large number of mushrooms can emerge. Blewit mushroom can also be found in open areas under other trees such as Monterey cypresses, acacias and eucalyptus, forming spectacular rings.
The host trees influence the mushroom taste as well, for example the ones under eucalyptus usually have a nasty smell and taste and can't be consumed. Based on the location, blewit mushroom can have a very attractive fragrance, with a clean and unique aroma.
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Blewits are popular for mushroom gatherers because they grow after the season of king boletes and maitake is over. It is then still possible to find the violet mushrooms on forest edges and around oak trees. It is not easy to describe the taste of the flesh, which has a distinctive and unique flavour. The strong taste doesn't resemble any other food and blewits can't be compared with other fungi.
The blewit cap has a convex shape with edges that roll inwards when young, very similar to a button mushroom. When fully developed it is about 1.6 inches wide, with a convex shape. When old the original lavender color fades and becomes tan and the cap edge becomes wavy and turns upwards. The aroma remains strong and in shaded places it will retain its color for longer.
The gills also have lavender color and fade with age, becoming brown or tan. They are densely packed and the stem attachment can be notched. The stem is no longer than 1 inch when the blewit mushrooms are young, with a thick diameter and an enlarged base. It becomes bigger with age and its color also evolves into tan.
The base can be blue or lavender in color if the mycelium is still attached to it, while the flesh is white with lavender tints. The spores are white but sometimes can have a slightly pink color.
Besides cooking, blewits can be boiled in an iron pot to produce a green liquid that is an old method for dyeing paper or clothes.
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Blewits are packed with antioxidants and considered to be whole foods. Other natural products with a similar content are tomatoes, green and red peppers, pumpkins, zucchini, carrots or green beans. These compounds can counter free radicals, which are dangerous chemicals that harm cells and trigger diseases such as cancer.
Mushrooms are a good source of selenium, a rare mineral that is rarely found in vegetables and fruits. It is needed only in trace amounts but is important for neutralizing some toxins that cause tumours, as well as the enzyme function of the liver. It limits the growth of cancer and reduces overall inflammation.
Another important anti-cancer compound found in blewit mushrooms is vitamin D, which balances the growth cycle of cells and prevents the appearance of cancer. If fresh mushrooms are sliced and left in the sun, their content of vitamin D increases even more. Blewits are also a great source of folate, which prevents DNA mutations that are yet another cause of cancer by improving the production and repair rate of DNA.
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Blewit mushrooms are great for heart health due to the combination of fibers, vitamin C and potassium. Blood pressure is regulated by the body using a mix of sodium and potassium. Most mushrooms are rich in potassium but low in sodium, so consuming them can balance the ratio and reduce high blood pressure. This reduces the risk of serious cardiovascular diseases, some of which can be fatal.
Beta-glucans are a very potent way to reduce cholesterol and a daily dose of 3 grams will decrease the level in the blood by about 5 percent. Blewits are rich in this compound but shiitake mushrooms are the best natural source, especially their stem.
Blewits supply selenium, a trace mineral that can increase the production of killer T-cells and boost the body's reaction against infections. Cell walls of multiple mushroom species consist of beta-glucan fibers, which improve immunity. This prevents many diseases and can even stop the formation of tumours by destroying cancer cells.
Blewit mushrooms also provide a large amount of dietary fibers, which can make the stool bulkier. The digestive system functions better, which is useful in weight loss diets. Beta-glucans and chitins are the two varieties of fibers found in mushroom cell walls. Consuming them provides a sensation of satiety that lasts for a long time, reducing the overall intake of calories.
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The species is a great choice as a sauté and pairs very well with sour cream in various recipes. Young fruiting bodies can be cooked and then preserved in marinated or pickled form.
An interesting feature of blewits is that even after cooking their unique blue color persists. This is useful for gourmet chefs who try to create foods with spectacular color contrasts. A classic dish that is very tasty and combines interesting colors is a soufflé that consists of long slices of blewit mushrooms and thin rounds of zucchini. Duxelles made from blewits are particularly tasty and aspic with an intriguing purple color can be prepared from them.
A sauté of blewit mushrooms in butter that is frozen afterwards is a great way to store them for later use. It is also possible to dry them, but most of the taste is lost. Blewits can also be preserved for a few days sliced in the refrigerator, while young ones can be pickled.
Blewits should be cooked and never consumed raw, even if they are edible. Mixing them in recipes with other ingredients is possible. They pair very well with poultry, cheese, rice, pasta, veal, pork or fish.
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Blewits have a large distribution and they grow in both Europe and North America. They have also been introduced to Australia where they are increasingly common. Blewit mushrooms feed on dead leaves, as a saprotrophic species.
Unlike other mushroom species, blewit mushrooms enjoy very cold weather and only start to develop when temperatures are close to freezing. Their season starts in the second half of October and continues through November to December, if the weather is not too harsh. The long season is more likely in coastal areas, with milder climates.
The species enjoys growing on compost, on areas covered by wood chips, wood remnants after raking and clipped grass. Oaks and other hardwood trees naturally form an area of compost around them that is ideal for blewits. The bushes full of berries on the edges of woods are also a great location for blewit mushrooms.
Older fruiting bodies lose both their distinctive color and the normal shape and become tan and stretched, being difficult to identify. Very large examples can be found occasionally, which is even more confusing, a pattern shared with other mushrooms. Traces of purple in the flesh can help in identification.