What a Beautiful Find in the Woods!

I found this beauty in the woods on the Newhall Estate yesterday – I wasn’t sure if it was a decomposing mushroom or a weird, yet strangely beautiful fungi.

Blackening Brittlegill - Russula Nigricans
Blackening Brittlegill – Russula Nigricans

After speaking with fellow Gastronomy student, Ally, from Beechbrae who is my go-to for all things fungi-related and some further consultation from Mark, a forager from Galloway Wild Foods  we have the answer – it’s Blackening Brittlegill (Russula Nigricans)

Here are some interesting facts that I found about it.

Russula nigricans, the Blackening Brittlegill, is a very variable species in terms of its size, shape and colour: it changes in each of these respects quite markedly as it matures, eventually becoming black all over.

Common in broadleaf, mixed and coniferous woodland, Russula nigricans occurs throughout Britain and Ireland. On mainland Europe this brittlegill can be found from Scandinavia right down to the Mediterranean region; its range extends eastwards into temperate parts of Asia.

Caps of Russula nigricans are 6 to 20cm (exceptionally 25cm) in diameter, convex with an inrolled margin and then later flatter and centrally depressed, the caps are dirty white at first, turning grey-brown and then eventually blackening all over.

Culinary Notes – When they are young and still white, Blackening Brittlegills are considered by some authorities to be very good edible mushrooms; however, perhaps because they become tough and deteriorate in flavour as they blacken, the general view seems to be that these woodland fungi are at best only mediocre from a culinary perspective (and there are plenty of other mushrooms with a superior reputation). That is a shame, because not only are Blackening Brittlegills chunky and often abundant but with their thick, very widely spaced gills, they are also very easy to identify with confidence.

(German mycologist Andreas Gminder says that these brittlegills are excellent when fried with bacon and onions.)

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