In this traditional Czech recipe, sauté blushers with caraway seed in some oil to create a quick snack or an easy dinner.
Amanita rubescens (Blusher)
Belonging to the Amanita genus, blushers are delicious mushrooms, but should only be eaten if you are 100% of its ID, because there are many poisonous lookalikes. There are also different species in Europe and in North America. Photo on the left is the European species A. rubescens photographed in South Bohemia, Czech Republic. Photo on the right is the eastern North American species A. amerirubescens photographed in Pennsylvania.
I am familiar with two species of blushers. In the Czech Republic, I forage A. rubescens, which can be very prolific in South Bohemian woods. In Pennsylvania, I commonly find A. amerirubescens. Originally thought to be the same species, the eastern North American blushers have been placed in the provisional Amanita amerirubescens group, because they are thought to be phylogenetically different from the European species (and there may be more than one species). Alternately, some refer to the European species as Amanita rubescens var. rubescens, and continue to use Amanita rubescens for the North American species. Regardless, the two species are very similar, though they most likely do not have the same DNA. Another species of blusher, which I am not familiar with, is A. novinupta found in western North America.
Growing in deciduous and coniferous woodlands from June through to November, blushers don't mind poor soils. They can grow singly, but more often you'll find them in gregarious groups. They have convex caps that are becoming broadly convex or flat with maturity, and stipes that lacks a prominent base as well as a sacklike volva. European blushers usually have light pink caps with white warts, but they can vary from from almost white through various shades of pink to brown. North American blushers can have yellowish to dull brownish caps adorned with warts that are yellow at first, but turn grayish to tan with development.
Blushers can be difficult to identify, if you're just starting out with wild mushrooms, because there are many inedible as well as deadly poisonous lookalikes. However, you can tell it apart from other Amanitas by its pinkish color and a "blushing" white flesh when bruised or exposed to air. Another tell-tale characteristic is a striate ring (i.e. has ridges) on the stipe, distinguishing it from the deadly Amanita pantherina.
Taste & Edibility
European blushers (A. rubescens) are definitely edible, but must be cooked thoroughly. North American blushers (A. amerirubescens) are also most likely edible (see below). Raw blushers contain a hemolytic protein that destroys red blood cells, causing anemia. However, this protein is not thermostable and therefore is destroyed when you cook the mushroom.
European blushers are one of my favorite mushrooms to eat. They have a meaty texture that can be reminiscent of fish, but without the smell! I haven't eaten North American blushers yet—mainly because it's a different species whose edibility has not been properly established. Furthermore, I haven't met anyone in Pennsylvania that has eaten them. However, I did some digging and Alan Bergo (Forager Chef) has a nice write up on them and has eaten them, though he wasn't very impressed, and Thomas Roehl from FungusFactFriday also writes they are edible. Finally, I have yet to find a bug-free North American blusher! Blushers are notoriously buggy and so it can be hard to forage enough for the table.
While it can be difficult to forage enough bug-free blushers, it is worth spending the extra time in the woods, because they are tasty mushrooms with a meaty texture. My family has always prepared blushers the same way: sautéed in oil with some caraway seed and salt. It makes for a quick snack or an easy dinner—it's essential to use these mushrooms quickly as they don't keep well.
Please be extremely careful cooking and eating foraged mushrooms. Never eat a mushroom that you are not 100% sure of its ID. The best way to learn how to identify and forage for edible mushrooms in your area is to join a local mushroom club or go with a trusted mushroom identifier or a mycologist. Then, even if you are 100% sure of its ID and know it's an edible mushroom, always try small quantities of a new mushroom first before eating a large batch to make sure it sits with you well.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- 400 g (14 oz) blushers (cleaned)
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 1/2 tbsp caraway seed
- parsley or chives for garnish (chopped) (optional)
Blushers are one of my favorite mushrooms to eat thanks to their meaty texture. It is customary to peel off the caps before cooking.
Clean the blushers. Brush off any dirt, peel the caps (start at the edges) and separate caps from stipes. Halve stipes.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tbsp canola oil.
Add blushers in a single layer and season with salt and caraway seed. Sauté for about 3-5 minutes per side without stirring, until slightly browned. After both sides are browned, stir and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Depending on the size of your pan, you might need to sauté in batches.
Season with more salt to taste and top with parsley or chives before serving, if desired. Serve with some delicious bread. Enjoy!
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