Who needs Easter Egg hunts when you can go searching for a different kind of edible treasure? Forget the chocolate. Last weekend we went hunting for pine mushrooms and slippery jacks in Belanglo State Forest.
Yes, Belanglo might be infamous for its more unsavoury past, but few realise that Belanglo is also the site of one of the earliest pine plantations in the state. And where ever you find pine trees, you're also likely to find pine mushrooms.
Belanglo State Forest
We'd been mushroom picking in Oberon Forest before, but Belanglo is a much closer option - about a 90 minute drive southwest compared to a 170 minute drive into the Blue Mountains to Oberon.
We have a convoy of three cars this trip and after a 6.30am start from Sydney and a pitstop for breakfast, we arrive in the forest before 9am.
Fly agaric poisonous mushroom
We've all been mushroom hunting before and set off keenly into the forest in search of saffron milk cap pine mushrooms and slippery jacks. Poisonous mushrooms abound but the edible ones are harder to find. It's important not to touch, kick or disturb unfamiliar mushrooms as their spores can easily release toxins into the air.
Poisonous omphalotus nidiformis or ghost mushrooms
Giant fly agaric poisonous mushroom
We're a little noisy as we tramp through the forest, but if you're quieter you may stumble into local wildlife like kangaroos or even emus. We walk past dozens of burrows too, varying in size from small to mansion-like.
Saffron milk cap pine mushroom hiding beneath pine needles
Saffron milk caps tend to grow low and hidden beneath pine needles. The best way to spot them is to look out for slight mounds of pine needles where hopefully you'll find a saffron milk cap slowly pushing its way up from the soil.
Saffron milk cap pine mushroom
Saffron milk caps have a very distinct appearance, with an indented cap and bright orange grills underneath. If you're even unsure about a mushroom, then leave it alone.
Fragile gills beneath the saffron milk cap pine mushroom
It's also important to avoid damaging the fragile gills underneath. Even gentle pressure from a finger will cause bruising which results in green gills and faster deterioration of the picked mushroom.
Cluster of slippery jacks beneath pine needles
We manage to find a few slippery jacks too, although it's still a little early in the season for these and they tend to flourish from late May.
Our haul of saffron milk cap pine mushrooms and slippery jacks
After an hour and a half we have a fairly impressive haul of mushrooms between us.
Butter, thyme and Pigflyin's homemade bacon in the frypan
This year we were a little more prepared and came with portable gas stoves and frypans so we could cook up some of our pine mushrooms to eat on the spot. Pigflyin' even brought along some of his homemade bacon for extra seasoning.
Slicing saffron milk cap pine mushrooms into the frypan
There is no greater smell than garlic, butter, bacon and freshly picked mushrooms sizzling in a pan in the forest.
Saffron milk caps sizzling in the pan
A few minutes later, we were feasting on our foraging efforts with satisfied smiles, and we still had a bootload of mushrooms to take home too.
A feast of freshly picked saffron milk cap pine mushrooms ready to eat in the forest
What to bring when going mushroom picking
- Sharp small knives for cutting the mushroom stems
- Gloves if you want to avoid orange fingers
- Baskets for collecting mushrooms
- Shallow trays so you can transport them home in one layer (mushrooms stacked on top of each other tend to sweat and bruise more easily)
- Covered shoes or gumboots (bring another pair of shoes to change into afterwards so you don't track dirt back into your car)
- Warm clothes. Try and wear bright colours so you can easily be spotted in the forest if you get lost
- A compass - to avoid getting lost in the first place!
- A portable gas stove
- Frypan and spatula
- A soft-bristled pastry brush to remove the dirt from your mushrooms
- Salt, pepper and lots of butter. Garlic, bacon, thyme, parsley and white wine are all delicious seasonings
- Plates, forks and water
- Garbage bag for any rubbish.
The mushroom season in Belanglo State Forest runs from March to June depending on the weather.
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Mushroom picking in Oberon
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4/22/2014 02:09:00 am