Hi all, I found this blog entry and HAD to share>>
In a way that is probably all too typically Australian, I have not been much of a mushroom forager in the past. Fungi are without doubt the weakest part of my foraging game. A few field mushrooms (Agaricus campestris) have passed my way; those least challenging of all with their obvious similarity to the common cultivated type (Agaricus bisporus). One foray in England brought a few home once, but which we then failed to identify with enough surety to eat. And I will confess to some youthful dalliances with the hallucinogenic kind (Psilocybe cubensis) from North Coast cow paddocks. But somehow I managed to spend far too long of the common view that we are simply not a country with enough edible mushrooms to make it a worthwhile pursuit. I have rarely been so wrong.
Perhaps with this the wettest autumn in memory around here I have probably picked a very good year to start, because my first foray into serious mushrooming has been a phenomenal success. With saffron milk caps (Lactarius deliciosus) to be precise. Last Sunday evening, with fading light and just enough time for the briefest foray, the beginning was at the Vulcan State Forest just out of Black Springs. Within a few metres and a few seconds of entering the forest, there they were, so thick on the ground that all but the best looking were ignored and the basket still easily filled within perhaps ten minutes.
A full basket within minutes and metres of entering the forest
Reaching the cabin that night in the dark and the last couple of hundred metres on foot with the car stuck in the wet I don’t start on eating them; that last vestige of caution and toxiphobia holding me back when so far from town and uncertain of the car’s abilities. The following morning however it takes only daylight and greater impatience to push me over the edge, and to push one thinly sliced cap into a pan. And it was delicious; only delicately flavoured in my view but wonderfully textured and cooking to a beautiful rich orange. On reflection it seems to me that the saffron milk cap is the perfect novice mushroom (as also found by others). Perhaps most importantly, it is just so distinctive and identifiable; plus it is great eating; and to top it off it is wonderfully abundant at the right time (early Autumn) and place (pine forest).
Sliced saffron milk caps
In a hot pan and butter, all too easy
The next day we make our back to Sydney with a stop at Belanglo State Forest to top the basket up. After sorting the haul in the morning I learned why you see foragers like River Cottage’s John Wright being so careful and delicate with their cargo – bruised mushrooms lose a lot of appeal and they do it quite quickly and easily. A few trashed ones thrown out, I am actually glad to have cause to get more. Belanglo didn’t seem as well stocked as Vulcan, but it was still very easy pickings and somehow a more open and inviting forest to walk into (strange though that is to say of a place of such serial killing infamy).
So now I have it, the mushrooming bug, and I already find it impossible to imagine that any autumn will pass again in which I do not venture into the pine forests. There is a crucial tipping point with fears like those we have about wild mushrooms where rationality wins out. To now branch out to slippery Jacks (Suillus Luteus) or boletes (Boletus portentosus), should I be lucky enough to find them, seems but a meagre challenge. On Tuesday it’s Penrose and Wingello State Forests for more.
thanks Forager’s year!