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Foraging for pine mushrooms

March 18, 2013

Last weekend, I joined the wonderful Diego Bonetto of Wild Stories and several other mushroom hunters for a beautiful journey into the pine forests of New South Wales. As well as enjoying delightful scenes of the countryside rush past lit in golden sunrise light, everyone went home with bulging bags of foodie treasure, with plenty left for anyone who followed in our footsteps. At $40 a kilo, I was pretty keen to learn the art of pine mushroom stalking and squishing them tightly into my backpack.

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As much as it’s tempting to sound far more knowledgeable than I actually am, I don’t want to give much away, because you really do benefit from going with an experienced mushroomer. It’s not only safer, but far more relaxing and enjoyable than trying to nut it out on your own based on a blog post! If you happen to be in the Sydney area, Wild Stories is running one last outing on April 20th at the end of the season after the last two sold out. It’s all very safe – there were even signs and brochures erected at both the locations we went to, declaring the treasures to be found amongst the trees.

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Off we went, feeling very hunter-gathery but also politely not elbowing anyone out of the way when we spotted one – not that we had to, especially at the second place we went to! When I spotted my first mushroom I felt like I had struck gold – literally. The rich “saffron milk” that gives pine mushrooms its distinct golden colour is delightfully vibrant.

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My favourite are still the small day-old babies, which aren’t as delicate as their older three-to-four-day cousins so they last longer and don’t get smooshed so much when you try to clean them. Texture wise they’re also more like button mushrooms as opposed to their larger counterparts – tighter and firmer. That said, the larger ones are nothing like the large mushrooms in texture once cooked – the skin is much more discernible when you bite into them.

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Diego also gave us some important identification lessons, in a valiant attempt to ensure we all survived our mushroom feasts. Given that the same type of mushroom can vary in appearance due to the less controllable conditions in the forest and the various bits and pieces on the forest floor that bend the mushrooms into different shapes, it was important to know multiple characteristics to look out for. He also imparted some invaluable wisdom about the context of picking them, such as the effect of the weather and type of forest.

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Here were some of our rejects that we collected and were unsure of, mixed in with a few edibles too. Just like recycling, if in doubt, leave it out!

To end our morning, we were treated to the fruits of our forage, with garlic, salt and olive oil, finished with a bit of parsley. My jeans still smell smokey from slicing mushrooms by the fire and it makes me drool a little every time I catch a whiff. The mushrooms themselves pack some gorgeous umami and earthy woodiness, with the slightest bitterness to offset their richness. They were not slimy at all, but nice and toothsome without being leathery.

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When I got home with my greedy backpack full of mushrooms, I got lazy and cleaned them with water (you’re meant to just brush them clean), but the skins were a lot less absorbent than regular mushrooms, so the water just kind of slid off. Still, they didn’t turn out soggy at all – a bit of a miracle really. A little kiss of butter made them even more sublime. My freezer is now heartily bursting with boxes of precooked sliced mushrooms, waiting to be used in a killer risotto or creamy pasta. I think these would work best in something with a decent amount of moisture, as their intensity and firm, non-slimy texture would lift a silky sauce and help flavour a silky sauce or soup nicely.

So…any suggestions?

So far I’ve enjoyed them with goats cheese over polenta chips (waaaay too rich), and in a grilled cheese with basil oil (yeah, I didn’t learn my lesson…).

19 Comments leave one →
  1. March 19, 2013 12:48 am

    Sounds fun! The rejects look interesting…
    I bought pine mushrooms once, I cooked them with eggs. :)

  2. March 19, 2013 1:17 am

    All my growing up years we hunted morel mushrooms in April and May, my mom would make cream mushroom gravy and biscuits with them — it is still a flavor that reminds me of home. :)

  3. March 19, 2013 4:47 am

    What a Great Experience – love to do something like this! Happy Monday:)

  4. March 19, 2013 5:18 am

    How awesome. Foraging is SO satisfying huh. If I had wild mushrooms I’d pan fry them in a little balsamic vinegar and serve on pesto-slathered bread with feta. A suprisingly delightful combination. I imagine a risotto (using any grain) would be wonderful with the array of shapes, textures and flavours. Yum!

  5. March 19, 2013 8:29 am

    AW how fun! I’ve always been obsessed with the idea of foraging. Have only doen the odd blackberry but nothing much more because I’m a complete noob and I don’t want to die. Wild garlic is in season right now, and if the weather lets up, elderflowers. An experienced friend is bringing me in a couple of week’s time, can’t wait! x

  6. March 19, 2013 10:50 am

    Heya Zo, thanks so much for the write up and links to the tours.
    I re-posted this writing on my blog for all to get to know your work :)
    http://www.weedyconnection.com/blog/2013/03/19/harvesting-mushrooms-with-foodies/
    Thank you :)

  7. March 19, 2013 11:06 am

    Gorgeous photos! What an excellent idea. I’ve never heard of organised mushroom foragings, but having someone with experience would be phenomenal.

    I wonder, they must keep some secret locations to themselves right? Just like experienced fishermen give away some secrets during fishing charters, their favourite lucky spots they keep close to their hearts.

  8. March 19, 2013 11:34 am

    This makes me so excited for the mushroom foraging I’ve got planned for May. A creamy mushroom and pancentta pasta is high on my list of recipes to try once I have some, but cooking them over a fire seems like the ultimate way to enjoy them.

  9. bridget hall permalink
    March 19, 2013 12:43 pm

    I’m so amazed you can actually go foraging for your own food. what a wonderful experience! I wish I knew someone in Perth who was doing something like that…

    Date: Mon, 18 Mar 2013 10:44:30 +0000 To: brigeridoodah@hotmail.com

  10. March 20, 2013 8:12 pm

    The mushrooms are called by us “Fichtenreizger”. Are very tasty mushrooms! From July to the end of October, you can find them in the forest.

  11. March 20, 2013 8:15 pm

    I would love to learn what mushrooms are edible, what an awesome experience. Lucky you!

    Hmm, ways with mushrooms, other than the obvious in risotto, pasta etc. I like them stuffed with goat cheese and pesto and grilled. Yummo. Thanks for sharing :)

  12. March 20, 2013 11:13 pm

    Aww thanks for all the love everyone! I don’t think I’ll have any problems with you suggestions, the community garden is BURSTING with basil so am covered on the pesto front!

    In case anyone is interested I found out through facebook but you can always google something like “mushroom foraging (your city)” and see what comes up!

  13. andrea sable permalink
    March 24, 2013 10:14 am

    Shroom pie, with broccoli, cashews, celery and thyme.top with cheese or a double crust.

  14. Daniel permalink
    March 26, 2013 6:46 pm

    Hi! thank you for this nice article, I can’t wait to go mushroom hunting. My plan was to go to forests near Oberon… ? Could you please let me know where were you at your hunting for these beautiful mushrooms ? I hope it is not a secret :-)) Thank you and enjoy your mushrooms !

  15. April 6, 2013 7:44 pm

    For those of you in the Sydney area, here is another excellent series of posts all about pine mushrooms and slippery jacks from two ladies much more knowledgable than me :) http://finskis.com/mushrooms/

  16. April 7, 2013 2:41 am

    I love foraging, the whole idea of living off the land, of gathering stuff from nature. I haven’t done much foraging besides the odd blackberry because I’m afraif I have no clue and will end up dying from fungi poisoning haha. Beautiful photos zo! Hope to get to a bit of wild garlic foraging this week, wish me luck! x

  17. April 7, 2013 2:51 pm

    Hi Zo Zhou, Thanks for your kinds words! We have two more tours on this year and will be selling our mushroom products within a weeks, so everyone will be able to try these amazing mushrooms… Blondie :)

  18. May 30, 2013 9:30 am

    Yum! I’ve always wanted to forage for mushrooms but I worry that I’ll kill myself in the process! I’ll have to investigate whether a similar mushroom foraging tour exists here in Western Australia. Those pine mushrooms look incredible!

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