Foraging for wild mushrooms in Oberon

by Forager on April 21, 2010

Welcome to the first post on my brand spanking new blog! It’s been a phenomenally long hiatus, but coding issues are (mostly) sorted, and I’m leaving my old blog Foraging Otaku behind and starting afresh with a new blog name – The Gourmet Forager.

I thought it was only befitting then that my first post be about foraging. I’ve always applied “foraging” in the abstract sense – that is, foraging for new eateries and destinations. A few months ago I went on my first proper foray into foraging – foraging for wild mushrooms – specifically saffron milkcaps. These mushrooms are also commonly known as pine mushrooms in Australia but a read through mushroom field guides or a quick search on the net will reveal that “pine mushrooms” is a generic term for mushrooms found in pine forests and will represent different mushroom varieties depending on where you are. So for the sake of distinction, I’ll use the term “saffron milkcap”.

My first foraging experience came about in an odd way. I spied some saffron milkcaps, in a grocery in Haberfield.  I’d heard about these mushrooms from my friend KatieB wwhose mother picks them under pine trees around their home in the Blue Mountains. Not knowing anymore about them but significantly intrigued I immediately snapped them up and skipped home to the Co-pilot to show him my purchase as though I were a child showing off a shiny new toy.

Saffron milkcaps

Saffron milkcaps

The Co-pilot didn’t share my enthusiasm and looked at the orange-brown specimens dubiously. I dutifully ignored him and cooked them in the pan with a simple butter, garlic, parsley sauce and chicken stock for extra moisture since they didn’t seem to sweat as much as button mushrooms.

Cooked saffron milkcaps

Saffron milkcaps in butter, garlic & parsley

I found the mushrooms to be tasty and strongly flavoured in a meaty way. The texture was slightly dry and spongy and the Co-pilot wrinkled his nose at them, pushing them away. Naturally, I ate his portion as well. All was well until I woke up in the early hours of the next morning to use the bathroom.

Just as I turned to flush the toilet I was confronted with the horrifying sight of remarkably red urine. My first thought wasn’t the mushrooms as they didn’t seem to have enough red pigment in them to cause urine discolouration. As it was 5am in the morning my sleep fuzzy brain came to the natural conclusion that clearly my kidneys were liquefying and I was dying. Clearly.

Sitting alone and in the dark in my lounge room, I googled “kidney failure, urine discolouration”. After 20 minutes of anxious searching the possibility of food causing the disolouration presented itself again. Unconvinced but out of ideas I searched to see if the saffron milkcaps were to blame. And thankfully, the first link returned clearly stated “saffron milkcaps turn your urine red. Do not be alarmed”. Relief washed over me and I crawled back into bed.

But the seeds of curiosity had been set. My “near-death experience” rendered me suddenly obsessed with saffron milkcaps. I searched for every morsel of information about them and was determined to forage for my own, especially after having read about Michael Pollan’s mushrooming adventures in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I was disappointed to learn that there weren’t any established mushroom foraging tours in Sydney. But I did learn that you can mushrooming in the Oberon State Forests. After serendipitously stumbling upon a comprehensive mushroom hunting guide released by the River Cottage’s Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, a hero in slow, sustainable and organic food circles, I was set.

Mushrooming guide book

The River Cottage mushroom guide

The Co-pilot recognised the crazed, obsessed look in my eye and relented, agreeing to drive the 5 hour round trip to Oberon so I could attempt to satisfy my obsession.

After a week of particularly heavy rain I declared it perfect mushrooming weather and dragged the patient Co-pilot along. Armed with my mushroom guide, a few knives, a box for all the mushrooms I was certain to find and some sustenance, we set off.

As we approached Oberon and plunged into curtains of wispy mist we kept our eyes peeled for mushrooms. Having now committed to the mushrooming trip, the Co-pilot transformed into an obsessed competitive mushroom hunter. He dubbed himself “Hawk Eyes” and started scanning the roads for signs of mushrooms, drawing on decades of insanely competitive family Easter Egg hunting experience. It wasn’t long before Hawk Eyes delivered when he spotted some white mushrooms on the side of the road. Using my trusty book, I positively identified them to be field mushrooms. They weren’t great specimens as they were water-logged and bug-ridden but they were our first find, so we dutifully picked them and kept them.

Field mushrooms

Field mushrooms

Soon after we stopped at what looked like a good mushroom hunting pine forest. No sooner than we’d stopped the car the Co-pilot was off and striding with competitive purpose, in Hawk Eyes mode. I on the otherhand was just a wee bit overwhelmed by the magical beauty of my surroundings. Standing in the middle of thick pines, sprawling blackberry brambles at my feet and mist falling gently around me in the forest. All was silent save for the gentle patter on raindrops on leaves and the gentle crunch of pine needles and twigs underfoot. I was more than content to take my time and soak up the unusual and rare opportunity to stand quietly in a forest and not have the pressing need to powerhike at a running pace through the bushes to a pre-defined location. That, and the forest inexplicably reminded me of those forests in Forks that have been so famously featured in the Twilight movies. I half expected to look up and find myself being hunted by Edward Cullen.

Magical forests

Magical forest setting

As I amused myself with the surroundings, the Co-pilot powered back proudly and dragged me off to a spot where he found some rather spectacular but sinister looking red and alabaster white specimens. We couldn’t identify them using our guide, but kept them anyway, so we could perform a more in depth identification later.

Suspicious red mushrooms

Suspicious red mushrooms

The experience we had at the first mushrooming ground formed the template for the rest of the day. We’d stop somewhere, I’d potter about slowly and contentedly with a dreamy look on my face and the Co-pilot would race off using a thorough military approach of sectioning off parts of the mushrooming area and systematically scouring and scanning for mushrooms.

By the end of the day we had collected a great variety of mushrooms, but sadly none that were saffron milkcaps.

Mystery white mushrooms

Mystery white mushrooms

Mushroom bonanza

Mushroom bonanza

We decided to try one more area before we called it quits and headed for home. We drove deep into the pine forests, passing curious wallabies standing sentinel on the way. As per usual, we went our separate ways and almost instantly I started finding good specimens including my first saffron milkcap! It wasn’t as pretty and immaculate as I’d hoped for but beggars can’t be choosers. I quickly followed that first find up with another specimen that was large, yellow with red flecks and oddly spongy in texture.

Finding saffron milkcaps

Finding saffron milkcaps (left) and an un-identified spongy yellow mushroom (right)

Proud of my mushroom hunting skills I went off in search of the Co-pilot to show-off and found him looking for me with a smug look on his face. Of course with such fertile mushrooming grounds,  he’d found his own mushroom booty. I found him with his t-shirt hastily converted into a dirty basket laden full with enormous saffron milkcaps.

Saffron milkcap haul

Saffron milkcap haul

One of those specimens was impressively large and heavy.

Colossal saffron milkcap

Colossal saffron milkcap

Depositing our find, we went back in search of more and found plenty. A few more saffron milkcaps, and a few white mushroom varieties that I at first incorrectly identified as slippery jacks, the other common edible mushroom in pine forests, as they had a sticky film of mucus on the caps. On closer inspection though, these sticky imposters had gills underneath, not the typical tubes found on slippery jacks.

Normal sized saffron milkcap

A more normal-sized saffron milkcap

False slippery jack

A false specimen of slippery jack

Examining the false slippery jack

Examining the false slippery jack

With this final raid, we boosted the value of our find dramtically and we grinned proudly at our dirt and pine-needle speckled booty.

Final wild mushroom haul

Final wild mushroom haul

Mushrooms!

Mushrooms!

We were finally satisfied with our haul and went home to first identify and then cook up our find.

The examination table

The examination table

Unfortunately, the identification process was quite disappointing as other than the distinctive saffron milkcaps which bled bright saffron milk and slowly turned blue with oxidisation, we couldn’t positively identify any of the other mushrooms. It wasn’t just because my mushrooming guide was designed for British forests (d’oh!), even the resources on the web couldn’t help us. There were too many specimens that fell into the “little brown toadstool” category as they had very few defining features that could let the amateur mushroom hunter identify them. In the end we had no choice but to obey the golden rule of mushrooming: “If you can’t identify it, don’t eat it”. And as there were poisonous specimens in my guide with ominous names like “death cap” and “funeral bell”, we didn’t need much convincing.

Little brown toadstools

One of the many little brown toadstools we found

Identifying saffron milkcaps

Identifying saffron milkcaps

Our saffron milkcaps were so heavy with dirt, pine needles and other gunk, wiping them with a damp towel achieved nothing. We resorted to washing them thoroughly and slicing them into bitesize chunks.

Squeaky clean saffron milkcaps

Squeaky clean saffron milkcaps

We decided to make pasta, cooking the mushrooms in garlic and onions first and finishing with a parsley, milk, marsala and parmesan sauce.

Creamy fettucine with saffron milkcaps

Ingredients:

  • 500g saffron milkcaps, cleaned and chopped into bite-size chunks
  • 225g of good fettucine pasta (half a packet)
  • 300ml of milk (or half the amount in cream if desired)
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 4 tblsp flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 2 anchovies
  • dash of marsala
  • butter
  • 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • freshly cracked pepper and salt, to taste

Method:

  1. Fry the onions and garlic in butter until translucent.  Add anchovies and fry until melted
  2. Add in mushrooms and saute on low heat until wilted
  3. Add in milk, marsala, salt and pepper and cook on low-medium heat until half the liquid has reduced (about 20 minutes)
  4. Cook the pasta in a large pot with plenty of salted water whilst the mushrooms cook. Drain and set aside
  5. Add parsley and cheese to the mushrooms and mix
  6. Add in cooked pasta, toss to coat and serve immediately
Saffron milkcaps being sauteed

Saffron milkcaps being sauteed

Creamy saffron milkcap pasta

Creamy saffron milkcap pasta

Paired with Piggs Peake viognier

Paired with Piggs Peake viognier

The mushrooms were delicious, the creamy sauce complementing their meatyness well, but we found that the smaller and younger specimens were much nicer. Their smooth, silky, slippery texture gets drier and spongier with size and thus age. We paired it with a 2009 Piggs Peake Viognier, which cut through the creaminess and complemented the mushrooms nicely.

My first foraged meal

My first foraged meal

And because it was the result of almost a 10 hour day – a 5 hour round trip, and preparation time before and after the trip, it was a very, very satisfactory meal. Although, I must admit, the Co-pilot and I were very lucky that day. If it weren’t for the haul we found at the last spot we would’ve undoubtedly come home hungry, tired and empty handed.

But despite the long day and the very real risk of a day of fruitless mushrooming, you can probably gather from my post that I had a brilliant time and was keen as mustard to head off mushrooming again. In no time my story about my virgin mushrooming adventure garnered a fan base amongst my friends and I had a sizeable group of mushroomers keen to join in. When friends invited us up to stay in their holiday home in the Blue Mountains, we eagerly added in a mushrooming side trip.

Mushrooming in Oberon – take 2

Unlike our first mushroom foraging trip, this time the weather was pleasant and dry, with the sun creating warm dappled light through the forest. It was gorgeous, but I secretly missed the magical misty forest wonderland we experienced the first time. We were also worried about the mushroom potential as there hadn’t been rain for a while in the mountains and we didn’t expect to find much. But we needn’t have worried. The first place we stopped, a mere step from our car, the Co-pilot and I immediately noticed how many mushrooms were sprouting. On our first mushrooming attempt it was difficult to find any mushrooms, let alone the saffron milkcaps, and yet this time there were mushrooms everywhere. Sadly, the mushrooms in great abundance were fly agaric mushrooms – a striking but mildly poisonous red capped mushroom with white spots – one that I stereotypically visualise when I think of cartoon-ish mushrooms.

Fly agaric mushrooms at different stages of their life cycle

Fly agaric mushrooms at different stages of their life cycle. Mature stage (left), young button (top right), near mature (bottom right)

Not to be deterred we set off into the forest in search of saffron milkcaps and slippery jacks. Almost immediately, The Artist spots the first saffron milkcap partially hidden under pine needles and brambles and displays his find obligingly as we all snap photos.

Josh finds the first mushroom

The Artist finds the first saffron milkcap

Buoyed by the competitive hunt for saffron milkcaps, our enthusiastic hunting party of 6 set off, eyes glued to the forest floor for signs of hiding mushrooms. After a few hours of intense foraging involving scrambling through thorny blackberry brambles, walking through spider webs and flicking off leeches (all punctuated by alternating curses and screams ), we were abruptly herded out of the forest as there was a high speed car rally underway and somehow in our excitement and haste to go mushrooming we’d ignored all the signs and barricades.

But by that time we’d collected 2 baskets full of saffron milkcaps! So we were happy to call it quits and extricate ourselves from the path of oncoming rally cars.

Mushroom foragers

Mushroom foragers at work

Baskets laden with saffron milkcaps

Baskets laden with saffron milkcaps

Unfortunately, due to the lack of rainfall in the area in the preceding weeks, many of the mushrooms we collected were fairly dry and woody. So after a vigorous cull of all the poor specimens, we were left with only a third of what we’d collected.

Still, what remained was enough for mushrooms on toast for breakfast the next day. The Artist did the honours and cooked the mushrooms in a delicious buttery, herby concotion.

Herby saffron milkcaps on toasted sourdough

Ingredients:

  • 250g of saffron milkcaps, sliced in bite-size chunks
  • handful of sage and thyme, roughly chopped
  • handful of parsley, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 100g of butter
  • 1.5 cup of chicken stock
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil
  • toasted slices of sourdough

Method:

  1. Fry the garlic, sage and thyme in butter over low heat until the butter starts to brown
  2. Add the mushrooms and cook until wilted
  3. Add chicken stock and cook on low heat for 15 minutes until mushrooms are soft and cooked through
  4. Add parsley and season with salt, pepper, a squeeze of lemon and dash of olive oil
  5. Serve immediately on toasted slices of sourdough
Herby saffron milkcaps

Herby saffron milkcaps enjoyed on toasted sourdough

Although the mushrooms we collected were a tad dry and slightly lacking their usually distinctive nutty, rich flavour, the long and slow cooking with stock and flavoursome herbs more than made up for the faults and the result was a deliciously moreish breakfast devoured in minutes to the chorus of satisfied foragers.

So after 2 mushrooming trips have I satsifed my wild mushroom foraging obsession? Hah! Not even close. If anything, I’ve only added super-volatile bonfire fuel to my mushroom fire and feel a desperate need to get back out there this time armed with Australian mushroom field guides so I can better examine the mushroom specimens I find.

If you’re wondering where my secret mushrooming spot is, all I need to say is head to the pine forests in Oberon. There were plenty to be found everywhere I looked. And now is the time to do it as it’s peak mushroom season and we passed many fellow foragers looking for tasty mushroom morsels. Just wait for rain, then head to the visitor’s office in Oberon for a mushroom guide & you’re set!

Good luck and happy foraging!

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{ 71 comments… read them below or add one }

51 Anna April 23, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Hi there! If you’re from Sydney, there are places closer to home that you can go mushroom picking. We usually go to the Belangelo forest, just off the freeway going to Canberra. Its about 5 minutes before the Maccas in Sutton Forest. You have to go deeper into the forest to find the mushrooms thanks to logging, but there are plenty of mushrooms as well as some fantastic picnic spots!

52 Anna Steiger May 2, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Hi there,

I am so happy to read your comment about the red urine as I just awoke to my own nightmare in the bathroom. So thanks for sharing your experience!

Ps.: Please leave the mushroom root at the place you found them, so cut the mushroom close to the root, as they otherwise will not grow their again.

Cheers
Anna

53 Latvian May 19, 2012 at 11:45 am

Thanks for the information. I also woke up to red/brown urine a few days ago after eating these mushrooms. I was convinced my organs were failing and I had a couple of days left to live, if that. So what did I do? Head straight for my cellar and started uncorking the very best of the wines I was cellaring for really special occasions thinking this would be my last chance to drink them. Sobered up today, and wondering why I was still alive I started googling and found this blog. Glad to be alive :) , even if I have none of my wines left :(

54 Meika Aspland June 5, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Dying to start foraging, but a complete novice. Anyone know of foraging communities or open to a newcomer on their foraging trips? If so, pls contact me at meikaaspland@live.com.au

55 Concerned for future mushroomers June 9, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Sorry, but I have to comment on how unsustainable and wasteful your mushrooming outings have been. If you read that mushrooming book then you should know that in order to reproduce mushrooms have to stay in the ground, reach full maturity, and be allowed to wither down. Why did you bother cutting old, woody and haggard looking mushrooms that aren’t good eating just to throw away 2/3 of them? Novices can learn from your mistake if you point this sort of thing out to them. Think of next years mushrooms and the rest of the community who also harvest this delicate crop.

56 Forager June 9, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Hey Dee – Great to hear you enjoyed them! Garlic and chicken stock (and maybe a handful of parsley?) sounds delicious!

Hey Eva – From your photos I’d say you found some young pine mushroom specimens in your haul (but also a whole lot of potentially dangerous ones). I don’t profess to be an expert so I would advise you to either seek expert advice, or as those mycologists seem to be in short supply – do your homework with lots of mushroom guides and take care with identification!

Hey Gus – Thanks for the tips – I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the yellow boletes. Yes, I’d kill for a local supply of wild mushies! Truth be told, I’ve been trying to shake spores at the base of local pine trees, but the conditions are just not right locally. Mushroom foraging is great fun, but the 4 hour drive one way can be pretty taxing!

57 Forager June 9, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Hey Anna – I’ve been foraging in Belanglo a few times now, and have done a post on the trip here if you’re interested: http://www.thegourmetforager.com/2011/03/foraging-for-pine-mushrooms-and-yabbies-in-belanglo-state-forest

Hey Anna Steiger – Ah not a problem! I’m just glad I’ve maybe in some way helped avert a panic attack! As for cutting the mushrooms near the roots, I would ONLY advise that for experienced mushroomers. Unless you are 200% sure you have correctly identified the mushrooms, cutting off mushrooms at the roots would make novices miss vital clues. The recent victims of death cap mushrooms may have benefited from pulling the mushrooms out including the base so they could see the volva and base typical of amanitas and maybe could have avoided tragic consequences. I really believe that a blanket “cut mushrooms off at the base” is not responsible advice, even from a relative novice like me.

Hey Latvian – I’m sorry you had such a shock but I think that is the funniest comment I’ve ever received! I’m glad you survived the mushrooms too :)

Hey Meika – I don’t organise foraging trips myself, but you should look up Diego Bonetto from The Weedy Connection. I know he regularly does foraging tours in Sydney. Here’s his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/304655639600970/

Hey Concerned for Future Mushroomers – (what a mouthful!). I agree that those two outings weren’t the most efficient use of mushroom foraging skills, but you’re obviously not a long time reader of my blog. If you were, you’d know that that was my first foraging experience and my first foraging post. Quite a novice attempt and I was finding my feet so unfortunately don’t have the experience that I have even now after a few more foraging experiences under my belt. I certainly don’t aim to promote unsustainable foraging to my readers, but the admonishment isn’t necessary. If you were to judge yourself, were you perfect and absolutely without fault on your first foray into foraging?

58 Yuri A September 27, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Hello to everybody,
Did somebody collect mushrooms in spring or it’s popssible to do only within spring ? I usually visit Belangolo forest in May.

59 Crarhl February 28, 2013 at 10:50 am

Nice spot for foraging!

From my own experience as an amateur, I have a few points to make myself.

By the time the shrooms are that big (over 10cm), there have been millions upon millions of spores dropped. With Lactarius deliciosus (Saffron Milk Caps) you want the little ones. Most yummy. No need to tap the cap or other such nonsense. Cutting the root is more to keep your basket clean. The mushroom is mychorrizal so dropping spores under your pine tree at home does not work. Hence the high prices, because these mushrooms cannot be farmed.

For help identifying, try a forum called “the shroomery”. Great resource of knowledge there. Professional mycologists even frequent the board.

60 Stephanie March 10, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Hi,
Love your recipes and interesting insights into mushroom gathering.
I live in the Blue Mountains and have Saffron milk caps in my very large garden.
I think you need to know that when you gather mushrooms you must use a sharp knife to cut the mushroom cap off and leave the roots in the ground otherwise the mushrooms cannot come up again the next year. This also means less cleaning.
I believe that if you are gathering in the forests around Oberon you can take your cache to the National Parks and Wildlife office in Oberon and they will identify them for you.
Love your blog. Stephanie.

61 Maria March 17, 2013 at 11:15 pm

I don’t think you need to worry about running out of mushrooms in Janolan State Forest. I was there today foraging and that place is absolutely full of them. There were a lot of old rotting ones on the ground. I think a lot of them get trampled by the wallabies there, I saw so many today. We only touched what we took and left everything else to run it’s course. We did see some weird and very large white and blue mushrooms. I’ve taken pics but haven’t had time to unload them onto my laptop. Thanks for the heads up on Oberon, it’s not far from where I live.

62 Peter Marshall March 18, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Dear Forager ,

Enjoyed reading your adventures . A safety note for your next trip.

The white mushrooms in the box in your photo are Amanita phalloides . Very poisonous . Even touching them or rubbing against edible species in the box is enough to give you a dangerous dose .

Only two species at Oberon can be trusted to be safe . Lactarius deliciosa ( Saffron Milk Cap ) and Suillus lutea ( Slippery Jack ) . Don’t put anything else in your basket .

We are having a fine crop of both after recent rains . Will try your recipes on the weekend .

Best Regards

Peter Marshall
Terra Preta Truffles
Braidwood NSW

63 Forager March 20, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Hey Yuri A – I think autumn and winter are the prime mushroom haul times. We can get a burst in late spring if the rain conditions are right but by and large, the colder weather is best for mushrooms

Hey Crarhl – Thank you for your wise comment! I’ve had far too many mushroom comments based off hearsay and old wives tales passed off as gospel. Love the shroomery forum – always a go to source for me when identifying via my conventional means doesn’t work.

Hey Stephanie – Jealous of your private cache of saffron milkcaps! And yes, the visitor centre is a great resource and I encourage all who are unsure of their finds to visit the experts there for some help identifying your haul

Hey Maria – What an interesting find! I’d love to see those blue and white mushrooms – maybe we could do some detective work and try to identify it?

Hey Peter – thanks for reading the blog and leaving a comment! I absolutely agree re the very few edible mushrooms available here. From my foraging, only a few a found in great abundance (warranting picking and identifying etc) and that’s the pine mushroom/saffron milkcap (Lactarius deliciosus), the slippery jack (Suillus luteus) and it’s commonly mistaken close cousin the weeping bolete (Suillus granulatus).
The white mushroom in my find is definitely not Amanita phalloides (aka the Death Cap). I’m not sure how you can even identify it from those pictures as one – but it had none of the classic death cap features, namely, the straw – green tinged white cap; bulbous stem; volva on stem or ring. In fact, it’s not even a member of the Amanita family! I didn’t bother to identify it further but if I were to hazard a guess, I’d say it was a type of Russula given the brittle stem and flesh. Not sure of edibility.
Nonetheless – I agree, don’t bother with the other mushrooms. Just stick to the main edible ones!

64 Forager March 20, 2013 at 1:41 pm

TO CUT OR NOT TO CUT?

I get many comments on this post from readers suggesting that other foragers cut off mushrooms at the base and I’ve addressed this before in the post and replying to individual comments, but – here it is again. PLEASE for your own safety, unless you are 200% sure that you have identified the mushroom correctly and would as it were, bet your life on it, DO NOT cut the mushroom off at the base.

ADVANTAGES OF CUTTING: cleaner basket, less dirt to clean off your mushroom haul later (which is a bother).

DISADVANTAGES OF CUTTING: You risk missing vital identification clues that are found in the base if you cut the mushroom at the stem. This is particularly evident in the case of Amanitas like the deadly Death Cap. Cutting the death cap off at the stem will mean you won’t see the volva (a bag-like cup) at the base and you could then mistake it for something edible and risk your life. That’s a pretty big disadvantage in my books.

Contrary to popular myth, cutting the mushroom off at the base DOES NOT help produce more mushrooms. Mushrooms are the fruit of an underground mycelium network and the mushroom is how it reproduces. It is not like a plant where you can cut off some and it will sprout back (mushrooms aren’t even classified as a plant). Instead, think of it as an upside down fruit tree, say an apple tree for this example. Telling people to cut a mushroom off at the base to help reproduction is like telling someone that they shouldn’t pick the entire apple off the tree but instead they should cut off a slice of apple and leave the rest of the apple attached to the tree because it’ll ensure the apple tree produces more apples. No! The half cut apple will die and will not encourage the apple tree to produce more apples.

I know this explanation will challenge the beliefs of many readers who have foraged for generations and were passed down these rules of cutting at the base by their families. But they are simply stories with no scientific basis. The reason more mushrooms pop up in the same spot next year is due to a healthy mycelium network. Not half cut mushrooms.

65 polish mushroom picker March 29, 2013 at 11:23 pm

Mushroom picking is very easy here and how Peter mention, pick only 2 of them rest is to risky.
In Poland we have hundreds types of mushrooms and RULE was pick what you know otherwise you are asking for trouble.
Saffron milkcaps – good for stir fry or straight fry on butter.
Slamy Jack – to dry, for mushrooms soup or stew. Hard work required like removing the skin from hats, a lot of boiling for stew or soup.
Season – Feb to April and May if not to cold .
Just come back from Oberon and there are plenty but old ones not so good.

66 Paul Thomas April 15, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Brilliant blog post and great pictures, it makes me yean for the autumn.

There’s a bit of debate on here and that always seems to be the way with fungi. The question of whether to cut or pull fungi from the ground is frequently a contentious topic. We actually know very little about the impacts of either but what we do know is:

Reckless pulling of the fungi from the ground removes some of the mycelia mat, so cutting is clearly less damaging. However, whether careful pulling is a problem or not is debateable and certainly species specific.
For mycorrhizal fungi, pulling fungi may also remove some of the mycorrhized root tips. Some mycorrhizal species are very slow growing and this could potentially cause damage when done in large numbers on the same site over and over (again, species specific). However, in such a situation of intense harvesting, compaction of the ground is likely to be far more damaging than whether the fungi are gently pulled or cut.
Pulling fungi (gently lifting them from the ground) is essential in some cases where the base is needed for identification.

Our foraging habits certainly can have a negative impact on fungi. Two extreme examples of this are:
1. Harvesting of Chinese truffles by raking. In many areas native truffle species are harvested by pulling a rake through the soil to find fruiting bodies. This happens to such extremes that in some areas the whole forest floor is turned over to a depth of 1m or more. This is extremely detrimental to the mycorrhizal fungi, resulting in its loss in such harvesting zones.
2. In prime Matsutake harvesting forests, the volume of foragers foot traffic (over many years) causes ground compaction which directly results in a significant decline in fruiting in many areas.

In summary, if the woodland is not undergoing a high-level of fungi collection then whether a careful forager is cutting/pulling is unlikely to have a significant impact. And my own preference? Cutting. It feels less destructive and you end-up with much cleaner mushrooms in your basket!

Keep up the fungi foraging- its a fascinating world and there’s always a new species to find…

Paul
Dr Paul Thomas
@SummerTruffle
http://www.PlantationSystems.com

67 Irini June 3, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Lovely find we also found Saffron milk caps today, cant wait to sautee them in butter and garlic. Next time you go foraging please leave the mushroom root at the place you found them by using scissors or a small pocket knife to cut the mushroom close to the root, as they may not grow there again. Maybe note it also at the beginning of your blog so that others may know this and we can keep the saffron alive every year!

68 Ben September 11, 2013 at 8:09 am

Mushrooming is primal.

The red with white dots mushrooms with the white stupe and gills are Amanita muscaria aka the fly agaric. They are the mushrooms of legend and folk lore and of course – Christmas.

The ignorant chant sansant: they are highly toxic and that they can kill you.

But they are wrong-ish.

The fly avaric like all mushrooms contains bio active metabolites.

In the fly agaric is found: cancer fighting beta glucans; ibotenic acid and its derivatives – muscumol, muscazone and muscarine. Upon drying the mushroom espescially in sunlight and preferably for a period of 9 or 10 days the ibotenic acid is converted into muscimol. Musimol is psychoative. The among of muscarine presentbus minuscule and is not regarded as threatening in the amount present.

The Koriak people and their contemporaries in Siberia still use the fly agaric as a sacrement. The intoxication is so highly esteemed they see no wrong in recycling urine to share the intoxication with others.

Some think Amanita Muscaria is the Herb of Immortality.

That it is one of the 8 Immortals.

That it is Soma.

The Eucharist of Christ.

Buddha.

The Elohim.

The Lord.

Odin.

Tarque.

Read: John Alegro – The Mushroom and the Cross; Gordan Wasson – Soma Divine Mushroom of Immortality

69 Ben September 11, 2013 at 8:20 am

But if you really want to find out a lot about the Fly Agaric you couldn’t go past Amanita Muscaria – Herb of Immortality’ by Don Teeter.

The book is downloadable for free from the internet as a pdf.

The Fly Agaric is also a highly esteemed edible mushroom.

Check it out for yourself by looking into the matter on the internet. Take a look at the AmbrosiaSociety

70 Forager September 21, 2013 at 11:00 pm

I think this is an appropriate time to say that the comments of others do not reflect the views (or state of mind) of this blog.

71 John April 8, 2014 at 9:53 am

Hello, i wanna ask if is here some another forest for example in Blue Mountains (some type of pine forest) where is a spot where is possible to find mushrooms?

I have been in Belanglo forest (with my friends) but i havent got a car and to Blue Mountains is possible to use a train. I know also about Oberon but it is too far from Rockdale without car.

I have a lot of experience about mushrooms from my country and in these days are a lot of Boletus chrysenteron or Xerocomus porosporus (there are too similar to compare from first look) here in Rockdale near the road (not good to use). Anybody know where are growing (in which forest here in Sydney) this type of mushrooms?

Thx.

Cheers John

Thx. Daniel

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