Do Blue Mushrooms Exist?
Yes! Meet one of our favorite fungi: Lactarius indigo - better known as the 'Indigo Milk Cap' 💙
Let's jump right in:
The photo above provides a great view of the rich hues this mushroom can produce. If you look closely, you can spot masses of the indigo-colored spores coating the gills' walls. Furthermore, when dissected this mushroom's flesh stains blue.
Moving on to the other half of this unique mushroom's name: "Milk Cap."
The Indigo Milk Cap belongs to a large family of fungi that fall under the umbrella term "Milk Mushrooms."
This category of fungi includes two genera: Lactarius and Lactifluus. Species of mushrooms within these genera are known to be mycorrhizal mushrooms that exude latex, or a milky substance, when the gills or flesh are cut/damaged. Some milk mushrooms exude copious amounts of latex when cut, while others, like this Indigo Milk Cap, only have small traces of latex. Though you may not always see the latex (especially on more mature specimens), the Indigo Milk Caps resemble other characteristics of Milk Mushrooms like the short and stout form with a zoned and funnel-shaped cap.
If you stumble upon some of these fungi fruiting on the forest floor, consider yourself lucky. These are fairly uncommon mushrooms but are generally widespread across the world.
Now I know what you're thinking... is this gorgeous blue mushroom edible? Or is that asking too much?
Well these beauties ARE in fact EDIBLE (after being cleaned and thoroughly sautéd of course - as with all foraged edible mushrooms) - though in my opinion the taste of the Indigo Milk Cap isn't remarkable... but they do provide a nice color boost to any dish. Additionally, a 2011 study published in the African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology indicated that L. indigo actually has antibacterial and cytotoxic properties, and therefore suggests that this mushroom may one day be considered medicinal with further research.
Because we mentioned edibility, it is important to note toxic lookalikes.
Fortunately for us here in the US, these mushrooms don't closely resemble any others. However, in Mexico where Indigo Milk Caps are foraged and sold locally, there is a toxic lookalike local to to the area: Omphalotus mexicanus. Although not deadly, this mushroom causes gastrointestinal distress if eaten. O. mexicanus can sport a bluish hue and has a similar shape and stature to L. indigo. But a great way to distinguish the two is by recognizing that O. mexicanus lacks the latex exuding characteristic of L. indigo!
Now where can I find these babies?
Well like we said, these mushrooms aren't very common... but here's where and when you can look for them:
Mycorrhizal - fruiting bodies grow up from the soil (look on the ground not on logs!)
Forested Areas - primarily forming mycorrhizal relationships with oaks and pines
Hummus and Moss - areas with good drainage, mossy mounds, and leaf litter
Summer and Fall - these arrive with the summer heat and linger through the fall
Don't hesitate to reach out with any other questions about these beautiful mushrooms - we're glad to help
Appalachian Mushrooms: A Field Guide - Walter E. Sturgeon
Lactarius Indigo - Microbe Wiki
Antibacterial and cytotoxic activity from basidiocarp extracts of the edible mushroom Lactarius indigo (Schw.) Fr. (Russulaceae) - Ochoa-Zarzosa, A; Vazquez-Garciduenas, MS; Robinson-Fuentes, VA; Vazquez-Marrufo, G, 2011
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