- Edibility – 3/5 – Must be cooked – can cause anemia if eaten raw. Standard advice is to chop, boil in salted water for up to 5 mins, discard water, rinse, then cook it as any other mushroom. A similar process can be used to detoxify its near relation the fly agaric, but this certainly does not work for its very poisonous cousins the death cap and destroying angel.
- Identification – 1/5 – Despite being very easy to find, the blusher is not a beginners mushroom – never munch on a hunch! Identification for the table requires close observation. Key features include a bulbous base, white ring on stipe, white gills that do not touch the stipe (free), and brown cap with white scales, but these are not enough to be sure you have a blusher. A tendency for its white flesh to bruise pinkish-red when damaged (it is loved by insect larvae so damage is common) should support your identification. Be sure you do not have a Panther Cap (Amanita pantherina) which has an ungrooved ring on the stipe, and a distinct rim (like an acorn cup) on its volva/base. The margin (cap edge) of blushers tend to be smooth, while the panther cap usually has fine striations. The cap of the panther cap tends to be more reliably deep brown, though cap colour in all fungi, and especially amanitas, can change rapidly according to weather condition and age. Despite being very easy to find, the blusher is not a beginners mushroom – never munch on a hunch!
- Distribution – 5/5 – Very common indeed
- Season: June – November
- Habitat: most conifers and deciduous trees, but especially birch, beech, spruce and pine.
The blusher is one of the UK’s most common mushrooms, and certainly its most common edible fungi. Very few fungi forays fail to turn one up, usually dozens, often hundreds. So its something of a shame that its scary relatives (death cap, destroying angel, fly agaric, and especially panther cap, on account of it being a similar colour) mean it tends to be eaten only by confiden/experienced mycophagists.
I have seen hundreds of thousands of blushers over my 33 years of fungi foraging (mostly in W Scotland) but only found my first panther cap after 30 years – they are not common in Scotland, preferring calcarious soils. The fact that I walk past so many blushers without going into close ID mode, might mean i’ve missed some panther caps down the years. They are powerful hallucinogens, seemingly beyond even the fly agaric, and while they have been used in shamanic rituals, they can cause serious poisoning 9though not so life-threatening as death caps and destroying angel.
Another barrier to eating blushers is their extreme susceptibility to fungal gnat larvae infestation. Like ceps, they can be riddled with wrigglers before they are even close to fully formed.
But I still can’t help thinking we are mostly missing out on an excellent food source here…