What You Should Know
Clitocybe nuda or Lepista Nuda is an edible mushroom native to Europe and North America. Described by Pierre Bulliard in 1790, it was also known as Tricholoma nudum for many years. It is found in both coniferous and deciduous woodlands. It is a fairly distinctive mushroom that is widely eaten, though there is some caution about edibility. Nevertheless, it has been cultivated in Britain, the Netherlands and France.
This mushroom has a blue to violet-tinged cap and gills when young, with pale pink spores. It sometimes grows in circles called fairy rings, which can appear overnight and were once thought to indicate that magic was at work.
Clitocybe nuda may look innocent enough, from a human perspective, but be glad you're not a soil bacterium facing this mushroom's mycelium in a dark alley. As George Barron's micrograph illustrates, Clitocybe nuda sends out tiny hyphae that penetrate bacteria colonies and kill them, sucking up their nutrients!
Other names: Wood Blewit.
Clitocybe nuda Mushroom Identification
Saprobic; growing alone, scattered, gregariously, or in clusters in organic debris - in woods or in urban settings; late summer and fall (and overwinter in warm climates); widely distributed in North America.
4-20 cm; convex with an inrolled margin when young, becoming broadly convex to nearly flat - or with an uplifted, wavy margin in age; surface smooth, slightly tacky when moist; sometimes finely cracked over the center; usually dull purple, or purplish with brown shades when fresh, fading to brownish, flesh-colored, tan, or paler - but sometimes brown or buff from the beginning.
Attached to the stem - sometimes by a notch - or beginning to run down it; close or crowded; pale lavender to lilac, fading to buff, pinkish-buff, or brownish.
3-10 cm long; 1-3 cm thick at apex; equal, or enlarged at the base; dry; finely hairy, and/or mealy near the apex; pale purple or colored like the gills; becoming brownish in age; base often covered with lilac to buff mycelium.
Thick; soft; purplish to lilac-buff or whitish.
Odor and Taste
Taste not distinctive, pleasant, or slightly bitter; odor fragrant.
Spores 6-8 x 4-5 µm, elliptical, minutely roughened; spore print pale pinkish-buff.
This mushroom is not for a novice as there are lookalikes to this mushroom with some of the characteristics mentioned above including Cortinarius archerii.
Clitocybe nuda Taxonomy and Etymology
Originally described in 1790 and named Agaricus nudus by the French mycolgist Jean Baptiste Francois Pierre Bulliard, in 1871 the Wood Blewit was transferred by German mycologist Paul Kummer into the genus Tricholoma. Mordecai Cubitt Cooke moved this species it to the genus Lepista also in 1871, and so Tricholoma nuda and Lepista nuda are synonyms.
The name Clitocybe nuda, proposed by Howard E. Bigelow & Alexander H. Smith in 1969, is preferred by some authorities and particularly so in the USA, but at the time of writing (2012) the Kew Gardens and BMS checklists retain Lepista as the genus.
Over the past couple of centuries and more Lepista nuda has gathered a plethora of synonyms including Tricholoma lilaceum (Quél.),Agaricus nudus Bull., Agaricus bulbosus Bolton, Agaricus bicolor Pers., Cortinarius bicolor (Pers.) Gray, Cortinarius nudus (Bull.) Gray, Tricholoma nudum (Bull.) P. Kumm., Agaricus nudus var. majus Cooke, Tricholoma nudum var. majus (Cooke) Massee, Rhodopaxillus nudus var. pruinosus Bon, Lepista nuda var. pruinosa (Bon) Bon, and Lepista nuda f. gracilis Noordel. & Kuyper.
Lepista is derived from Latin and means a wine pitcher or a goblet, and when fully mature the caps of Lepista species do indeed become concave like shallow chalices or goblets.
Rather as it sounds, the specific epithet nuda simply means bare or naked.
Clitocybe nuda Cooking Notes
Wood Blewits are edible if well cooked (never eat them raw), but it is a wise precaution to try a very small portion at first because they have been known to disagree with some people.
In many parts of mainland Europe Wood Blewits are available in supermarkets throughout most of the autumn and winter months, and they are particularly popular in France, Spain and Portugal.
Young caps are best, and they have the added advantage of retaining their bluish coloring as an aid to identification.
Clitocybe nuda are very good if sauteed and served with pale meat such as veal, pork or chicken; they are also fine with cheese, rice and pasta dishes. Blewits are also very good in omelets, but do make sure that the mushrooms are cooked thoroughly; otherwise, they can cause indigestion and in some people more serious stomach upsets.
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