delivering a basket of Saffron Milk Caps in exchange for a gift voucher. Amity from Alfalfa food cooperative eagerly accept the booty for a no-cash exchange deal
It’s that time of the year, the temperature drops and the autumn rains bring out the seasonal bounty: mushrooms. As there are plenty of better and lesser known mushrooms, people need to be aware of what to pick. So, in the spirit of sharing knowledge, you regularly take people out in nature to teach an avid little crew what, when and how to collect wild edible mushrooms. You live in Australia, and despite being so much variety, little is known of the native edible mushrooms. This is due to the fact that most knowledge has been lost. When the continent was settled by the colonisers, a systematic and intentional practice of cultural disintegration took place amongst the native population by the hand of the self-appointed government. However anyone would like to read history, the fact of cultural loss is undeniable, and with it the knowledge of gathering mushrooms.
You come from a part of the world where such practice is still current, and fortunately the species known to you, italian, and a host of other cultural groups -like macedonian, russian, polish, greek, and more- can be found here in Australia as well. Mushrooms are the result of a symbiotic relationship between the host plant and a network of underground ‘branches’. The mushroom itself is the ‘inflorescence’ of the undergorund plant, coming out when the conditions are right ( colder nights, autumn rain) to let go of the reproductive spores.
So off you go, year after year, incredibly early in the morning to beat the competition, to collect the seasonal delicacy. When you were in Italy you use to collect Boletus and field mushrooms and what we use to call ‘famiole’, here in the State Forests of Australia you collect Slippery jacks and Saffron milk caps. The reason you go to State Forests is because they are farming grounds for the industry-standard pine plantation, the source of most of structural timber for this country. Fortunately, being essentially a pine forest (Pinus radiata the specie), the plantations are the host ground for the edible mushrooms that you know. This practice is getting more and more understood and appreciated. Seen as an ‘ethnhic’ activity in the past, mushroom’s harvesting is now fostered and promoted by the mainstream, like the city of Oberon, NSW, which dedicate a section of their website to give information on how, when and what to pick in the State Forests within the council boundaries, see here.
The value of the activity as a cultural signifier has been also the subject of academic studies, like this essay by Max Kwiatkowski written about the Polish community interaction with a particular patch of State Forest south of Sydney, which, he argues, becomes the geographical connection to an romantic idea of landscape, a nostalgic reconnection to land. Indeed the essay is one of your most treasured pieces of writing, where, as you do on this site, argue for a reconsidering of landscape representations, and individual identification of self within a pre-packaged understanding of what landscape is, what it looks like and what you do with it. Anyway, here you will find a number of images from our harvest, check the flicker set for more informations.