Tips for mushroom season...

Mushroom season has hit our area with the arrival of heavy rains and the resultant damp earth. Before the weather becomes too cold with the bitter chill of winter, the ground sends up fascinating offerings to view and admire..and sometime even eat. After spending a few outings recently collecting such offerings I thought it would be a good idea to talk about mushroom hunting for anyone considering partaking in this most enjoyable (but cautious) activity.


I first learned to identify a handful of mushrooms a few years ago when a good friend and I booked in to participate in a fungi workshop offered through our local neighbourhood house. For anyone considering going out into the wild to partake  of some edible delights, I would definitely suggest booking yourself into a similar course FIRST, so that you are not relying on heresay when identifying your 'shrooms.

The workshop my friend and I went to was extremely informative and included an entire morning spent viewing photos and slides of all types of fungi, from the lethal to the edible. The workshop also had a spectacular display of locally gathered fungi in various stages of their development. During the afternoon, the group headed out to a nearby location for hands on fungi identification and tasting. You can read about this workshop, way back here. 

Once you feel you are armed with more than enough knowledge to avoid the dangerous (lethal) mushrooms, and safely identify those praised for eating, you will want to consider the logistics; where to go, what time of day, what to take and so on.

Where to go depends largely of your knowledge of the local area, or, if you are not within mushrooming range, knowledge of the area you intend to travel. Find out a little about the area you are heading into. Is the area elevated and subject to heavy mists/fog or cooler temperatures? Pack extra coats! Is it on a steep slope? Wear sturdy footwear. Is the area on a dirt road and is this accessible after heavy rains? Plan your vehicle or perhaps consider parking a safe distance away and walking. Common sense plays a big part here. :)

What time of day should I venture out? Often, the most prized hunting grounds are already well known by other 'hunters' in your chosen area. If you are serious about hunting your mushrooms, you may like to consider heading out early, before day trippers from further afield make it to your location before you. It can sometimes even pay to make a short session or two mid week if you are close by, when most day trippers are tucked up at home or work and not planning a trip until the weekend.

It is also not uncommon for cafes and local restaurants to gather wild mushrooms to include on their menus, or market stall holders to offer at farmers markets, so if your favourite area is also frequented by such folk, heading out the earliest you possibly can after a bout of rain, can prove to be more successful than waiting until the weekend.



What to take?

  • Aside from the obvious warm clothing and sturdy footwear, pack a coat and hat as mushrooming grounds are nearly always cold.
  • Fingerless gloves are another welcome addition because when you find a good patch, there is little time for hands to be sitting idle in warm coat pockets!
  • A small knife is a must, as when harvesting mushrooms, it is the etiquette to cut just below the surface of the ground, to leave the unearthed section behind to reproduce again the following season. Some people prefer specialty mushrooming knives that come with a brush attached to one end, however I find that a simple steak knife is quite adequate for my needs.
  • A basket with lid is also a welcome addition. I have hunted without bags, large shopping bags and open baskets before, but by far the best investment was a $3 wicker picnic basket from my local thrift shop that has two hinged flaps to open, thereby protecting the mushrooms if it happens to rain. The basked can also easily be hosed off once emptied, in readiness for the next session. 
  • A mushroom guide book (or app), mobile phone, map of the area, snack and water bottle and camera are also items worth considering. 
  • To begin with, I would suggest always hunting with another person, as with two people identifying, errors are less likely to occur. As you gain confidence in your mushrooming abilities, solo ventures will start calling to you, but remember to tell someone if you are 'shrooming alone, for safety's sake. 


When out there..
**Only take what you know to be 110% safe to eat!! It seems obvious, but you have really got to be absolutely certain that what you are picking is not going to harm yourself or your loved ones.**

Try and steer clear of other hunters, as it could be considered impolite to hunt alongside them. There is plenty of forest out there, so find another section to look in.

Only take what you need! It can be all too easy to come home with a basket overflowing with mushrooms that you don't get around to using, so please, only take what you intend to use and save the rest for other keen hunters. I believe that is the golden rule of foraging - always leave something behind for the next person.

Have fun! Once you know what you are looking for, mushrooming can be great fun and an enjoyable social activity or an opportunity for peaceful solitude. Either way, it's a great way to spend some of these autumn days before the seriously chilled blast of winter hits.


Do you hunt mushrooms? Do you have any tips for the new hunter that you'd like to share? What is your favourite way to cook foraged mushrooms? Please share in the comments section below!

Be safe out there and happy hunting!



**I choose to hunt only Saffron Milk Caps (Lactarious Delicious) to feed myself and my family. They grow well in our local area in the pine forests and are extremely difficult to mistake with any other mushroom. They have a distinctive orange appearance, ooze a saffron coloured sap when cut and their flesh turns an oxidised green when it is bruised. More information on this edible mushroom can be found here.**

Comments

  1. Just got off the phone with my mom and she and grandma had gone hunting for spring mushrooms - Morrells - (think that is how they are spelled) some call them dishrag mushrooms as they have a distinct woven look to the cap! Makes me hungry just thinking about it! Thanks for the info!

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    1. Exciting Kathy! I believe Morels grow in our area but have not chanced upon any yet. A springtime treat, yes as opposed to autumn?

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  2. I'm definitely going to get into mushroom picking this year. Here people who are unsure of what they have picked are told to go the local chemist who will then check over, for free, the 'harvest'. A friend who regularly goes out picking told me to bring baskets and small boxes so as not to crush the mushrooms at the bottom of the bag. However someone else told me to always use a mesh bag so that the mushroom 'spores' can fall to the grown and encourage more to grow - I have no idea if this is scientifically correct or not!
    Great post Christine, lots of helpful tips. Thanks.

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    1. I wish that was part of pharmacists training in the UK too. I would love to pick mushrooms but have always been too worried about picking the wrong ones :(

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  3. Yes Emma, I remember our guide mentioning about the service in European pharmacies that checks over the ones you pick!! This is such a great thing to have, I so wish we had something similar here! Have fun out there ;-)

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  4. Those mushrooms look gorgeous! We don't find the saffron milk caps around here. They're such pretty mushrooms, I wish we did. I do love mushroom hunting, field mushrooms are what we mainly hunt for here! They're delicious. We cook them up plain with a bit of butter and cracked black pepper (my favourite) although we did make a good mushie risotto with them as well recently :)

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  5. I have never been mushroom hunting but my mum does it every year in NZ. It is something I would like to try in the future.

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  6. Oooh, you're brave Chris! I'm sure you know what you're looking for, but I'm so nervous after the recent stuff in the news. The ones you picked look delicious though! :)

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  7. Yes, yes we hunt mushrooms and are waiting in breathless anticipation for our milk caps to rise from the damp cold earth! Mind you, it's not strictly foraging as they grow on our property, but they are wild and free ;)

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  8. These look so similar to what we call "Pine Rings" which we collect every year after our first rains up in the forest. To make sure they are really fresh we go the second day after a good rain. We have four days of rain forecast so I think next Thursday will be mushrooming day!

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  9. Best mushrooms pics ever!!

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  10. I love mushrooms and we have an organic mushroom farm nearby. But I love the idea of finding a class... we often have a button-like mushrooms growing on our property, but I've never collected them since I'm not certain of their eat-ability.

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  11. We are sometimes privileged enough to go mushroom picking with my faraway sister and her forester husband. We pick boletus mushrooms which are lovely oven dried and stored in jars. They add a delightful flavour to cooking and dipping into the jar brings back happy memories many months later.

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  12. Just letting you know i have nominated you for a blog award over at my blog.

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  13. Great blog! We went mushrooming today & got a few saffron milk caps, cooked them up with a bit of bacon, onion & butter. Delicious. We also went looking in a variety of bookshops for a light, easy to carry reference book which we didn't find. Am interested though in the app you mentioned. Is there an australian one? Also interested in the course you did. We live inner city Melbourne but love to get out there in the fresh air & forage.

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  14. Beautiful post - the photos are gorgeous and the information is amazingly useful. I'd love to forage more often for food, but Im too nerveous to make a mistake. I should do one of those courses. I really appreciate your guidance here. Thanks.

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  15. Kuzu Zangpo! Greetings from beautiful Bhutan.

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  16. Hi Christine. Hope all is okay with you. I was feeling quite smug about getting my monthly nine post out on time but here we are ten days later and no word from you. I hope you have just decided you can't be bothered posting this month and that nothing bad is happening for you. Take care. Linda xxx

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Hi there, so nice of you to stop by! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I love hearing what you are up to. Christine x

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