The Magical Colour of Amethyst Deceivers
I had seen Amethyst Deceivers (laccaria amethystea) in my foraging books before, but was for some reason reluctant to pick them myself. I suppose they are quite small and there were always bigger, more familiar mushrooms in evidence, but my mind was changed on a recent guided mushroom-hunt. There are two main reasons I want to bring this mushroom to your attention. Firstly, it is extremely easy to identify – a valuable piece of information learned on this hunt. Secondly, they come in the most marvellous shades of purple. Just imagine them sprinkled over a green salad. The colours!
It is very difficult to mistake this fungi for something else, provided you follow all the usual measures of common sense and respectful caution. Its small size and distinctive colour are key identifiers, though neither of them will help you spot them on a brown, leafy forest floor. That being said, they are quite emphatically purple, so a keen eye should be able to pick them out. They also commonly grow in groups, so should you find one, you are very likely to find more. And as with all my other favourite mushrooms, the maggots tend to leave them alone. Joy!!
Be sure that what you are picking is truly purple. There is another member of this family which looks the same other than for the distinctive colour. Called The Deceiver, it is a brown mushroom which is also edible, but its colour means it can easily be mistaken for other, less stomach-friendly, fungi.
As is indicated by my entreaty for you to sprinkle them on a salad, they can be eaten raw – this is not true of all wild mushrooms. As they are so small and the lovely colour will deteriorate with cooking, I suggest that you do avoid heating them. Perhaps use them as an artistic, cheffy garnish?
They can be cooked, however, if you are so inclined, and like all wild mushrooms are delicious sautéed in a little butter. However you decide to eat them, be sure to clean them thoroughly, as their wide gills are a welcoming home for insects and dirt.
I have included below the key characteristics of amethyst deceiver mushrooms to get you started. These are not the only characteristics of these mushrooms, but they are the ones I have found most useful. When foraging for mushrooms, you should always take great care to be sure of what you are eating. This could involve going out with an expert guide or could be achieved by consulting several reference books – always more than one book – and examining the mushrooms meticulously yourself. I never eat a mushroom that I am not absolutely sure about. I have discarded many mushrooms because one minor characteristic did not match or because I didn’t feel completely able to visualise the description in the book for accurate comparison. It is always better to be safe than sorry. There will be other mushrooms.
- the most distinctive feature of this mushroom is its colour – typically deep purple all over (cap, gills and stem), though older caps will start to pale with age and become more lilac
- the cap is 1-6mm wide, with widely-spaced gills
- the stem is 5-10mm wide
- it is common in damp, temperate forests, between late summer and early winter
- these small mushrooms tend to be maggot-free
NOTE: These identifying characteristics are specific to the UK only. Most likely, the characteristics of amethyst deceiver mushrooms found in other countries will be similar, but there could also be differences I am not aware of, or other potentially look-a-like mushrooms that are not found in the UK.
To see or buy my favourite beginner’s mushroom book, River Cottage Handbook No. 1 by John Wright, click here. To see a detailed post describing my favourite mushroom identification books, websites and apps, click here.