Mushroom picking in Australia is a great day out with a yummy meal as a bonus.
I’ve heard it so many times over here. All mushrooms, apart from those on the shelf at your local shop are dangerous, poisenous and better left alone. Why risk it, right? Well… Wrong!
Mushrooms are delicious. Picking them in a forest is great fun for the whole family and there is also this pleasure in finding your own food. Brings us back to the time when we were all hunters and gatherers responsible for our own survival instead of having our food nicely presented and plastic wrapped in the local grocery store.
Besides … They look great? And check out the black berries too! Actually, take a good look at them. Those are the only mushrooms I’d recommend picking around Sydney – Saffron Milk Cap or the Pine Mushrooms. They are very distinct in shape and colour and you should have no trouble telling them from the poisonous ones.
Mushroom picking in Australia is slowly gaining popularity among locals. 20 years ago you would not find an English speaking person there; now its pretty common. Mind you, most English you hear would have a heavy Polish, Scandinavian or Arabic accent. It will belong to someone who brought an Australian to the forest for the first time and is trying very hard to reassure them that its safe to eat them. It’s a cultural thing, I guess, but I’m proud of my Australian friends who come along with us every year and try something that is apparently very unusual and generally not recommended over here.
Best times to pick mushrooms in Australia is Autumn; from February till April.
I hear that because of this climate being much milder than European, mushrooms can be found here almost all year round. There are only 2 types mushrooms you should pick in NSW forests.
Saffron milk cap (lactarius delicosus), commonly known as the pine mushroom or Rydz
Slippery jack (suillus luteus or boletus luteus)
Personally I only collect the pine mushrooms. Slippery jacks are great if you have time for canning but that’s too time consuming for me. What we normally do is collect a few, cut them into strips and fry them with butter and some garlic with a bit of salt. That’s IT.. serve hot with a slice of good thick sour dough bread. A bottle or 2 of chilled Sav Blank or beer are optional, but highly recommended.
Don’t forget to bring:
- A small sharp knife. We don’t pull mushrooms from the forest floor. Cut them off, leave the roots in the ground.
- A basket or a bag. Preferably not a plactic bag as they may not survive the trip home in it.
- Good walking shoes, a hat, a poncho for the rain. It’s also great to ward off the leeches. Oh… come on! You’re in a forest! Where is your sense of adventure?
- Picnic and cooking gear
- Outdoor chairs; table can be useful too.
- A gas burner. Frying pan. Butter, salt, bread, wine…
- A large garbage bag.
Word of caution about mushroom picking in Australia
- While mushroom picking is an age old tradition in many European countries, if you’ve never done it before, exercise extreme caution.
- Come with friends who know what they’re doing or at least consult people in the forest before you eat them.
- If they find a poisonous mushroom in your haul, throw away the whole lot. Don’t be a hero.
- If you have ANY doubt, do not pick it. If you pick it and still in doubt, do not eat it.
- Please! When you finish, take your rubbish back.
- Ahh… When you use the bathroom the next morning do NOT be alarmed. Its not blood …
This is the one to avoid. Fly agaric mushroom (amanita muscaria). It is the most common poisonous mushroom known to men. Mainly due to their beautiful bright colours and their popularity among fairy tale writers. Well, the forest is full of them. They look magnificent and make great still photography subjects. Still, try not to touch them, and if you do, wash your hands before you handle food. It may not poison you much, but you’re in a forest, miles away from a doctor and a decent bathroom.
Berrima ( Dalys Rd, Belanglo NSW 2577, Australia )