Today I went foraging for mushrooms for the very first time. I took the best equipment available to me. Namely a person who knew what they were talking about and looking for. Someone who had foraged for mushrooms before and had lived to tell the tale!
My foraging expedition was in the “famous” Pine Forest of Armidale. Famous in the sense that it is a very well-used recreational area. There are many well-made tracks for walking, and mountain bike riding. There is a Viking hut that becomes the focal point of the Viking Festival which made a return this year after a couple of years off due to Covid. Cows wander through the area and apparently belong to ‘some’ guy, somewhere. The forest is managed by the NSW Forestry Corporation.
The winter has hit with a vengeance in Armidale. The day started at -2oC and warmed up to a sweltering (!)10oC. Unlike my blackberry foraging in summer, I did not end up spiked to pieces and had a very pleasant chat while walking through the quiet pathways carpeted with pine needles
Another feral species!
While we saw several species of mushrooms, we were after saffron milk caps or more formally Lactarius deliciosus. Lactarius deliciosus are not native to Australia and are thought to have been accidentally imported when conifers were brought into the country for forestry purposes.
Saffron milk caps grow at the base of pine trees, so find a pine forest and you’re likely to see the saffron milk caps. I had seen them many times before both here in Australia and when in Canada and the US but I strode right on by thinking they were not as attractive as some of the inedible fungi I had stooped to take photos of in the past.
It was apparently late in the season, but we still found enough to bring home a respectful haul. We only cut as many as we could eat in one meal and left some for other people and for spores.
Sautéed with butter
I brought home my seven milk caps and sliced them up into thickish chunks. They ooze a very vivid orange ‘sap’. I decided to keep it simple and sautéed them gently with a lot of butter.
Even though I knew they were edible it took a good dose of self-persuasion to eat them. And I am pleased to say I haven’t keeled over or lost any limbs.
They tasted like… well like… mushrooms.