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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mushroom Picking in Belanglo State Forest

Picking saffron milkcap pine mushrooms in Belanglo State Forest

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 pine plantation
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 mushrooms in Belanglo State Forest
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.

Omphalotus nidiformis ghost mushrooms in Belanglo State Forest
Poisonous omphalotus nidiformis or ghost mushrooms

Giant fly agaric mushroom in Belanglo State Forest
Giant fly agaric poisonous mushroom

Fox burrow in Belanglo State Forest
Fox burrow

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 in Belanglo State Forest
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.

Hunting for saffron milk cap pine mushrooms in Belanglo State Forest
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 in Belanglo State Forest
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.

Slippery jack mushroom hunting in Belanglo State Forest
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.

Saffron milk cap and slippery jack mushrooms picked from Belanglo State Forest
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 bacon in the frypan for cooking mushrooms
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
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.

Cooking saffron milk cap pine mushrooms 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.

Saffron milk cap pine mushrooms cooked in the forest
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!
If you plan on cooking mushrooms on-site, remember to bring
  • 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.

Happy foraging!

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Mushroom picking in Oberon
20 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 4/22/2014 02:09:00 am


  • At 4/22/2014 9:09 am, Anonymous Sandra said…

    Nice! I've always wanted to do that one day!

  • At 4/22/2014 9:19 am, Blogger Milktea Eats said…

    i planned a trip for Oberon but that fell through, this is so much closer tho!

  • At 4/22/2014 2:15 pm, Anonymous Eha said…

    Hmmm!! I live twixt Bowral and Thirlmere, so your statement that some of the mushrooms are at their best end of next month or so is getting me inquisitive and excited :) ! With the history of Belanglo methinks very much daytime and in a group so as not to get the 'creepies', but did not realize such beautiful mushrooms were quite so close :) !
    Reminds me of my childhood forays in Northern European pine forests - what temptation to try!!!!

  • At 4/22/2014 4:35 pm, Anonymous Alice said…

    Wins over any Easter egg hunt, hands down! Pine mushrooms are my absolute favourite and I've been checking off my autumn food list and those are next, (after figs of course!)

    Love that you went foraging for yours and braved Belanglo to do so. (interesting to see how many of your readers picked up on it's err, unsavoury past!)

  • At 4/22/2014 9:12 pm, Anonymous Chris @ MAB vs Food said…

    This like a lot of fun! I love mushrooms so you have given me an idea now :)

  • At 4/23/2014 11:00 am, Blogger Cassie | Journey From Within said…

    Looked like you enjoyed yourself! :)

  • At 4/24/2014 12:55 am, Blogger Annie said…

    looks like you had a fun day :)

  • At 4/24/2014 10:59 pm, Anonymous Lisa W said…

    Oh my goodness I think I've just worked out what I should do with the family this weekend. It looks like so much fun. My kids would love this kind of adventure!

  • At 4/25/2014 1:40 am, Anonymous Lawrence @ FightTheCraving said…

    Why are all the pretty and big mushrooms poisonous :(

  • At 4/25/2014 8:49 pm, Blogger Winston said…

    Never seen anything like it -- this is too cool! What a great way to spend the day in the forest. Mmmm, shroooooms.

  • At 4/26/2014 7:40 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    Just came back from an outing in the Belangalo State Forest with four fruit boxes of Saffron Milkcaps and Slippery Jacks. Cook some, give some and freeze some as soup. Didn't see Ivan Milat. A fun day had by all.

  • At 4/26/2014 10:49 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    We were there a few days earlier than you (on the Thurs and Good friday) and there are really big slippery jacks, you just have to know where to find them.
    Also, good yabbying in the dam! ^_^

  • At 5/04/2014 12:42 am, Blogger CQUEK said…

    Gorgeous photos, as always, i love to be out there and enjoy the Big mushrooms.

  • At 5/06/2014 11:59 pm, Anonymous sara | Belly Rumbles said…

    Oh how I want to forage...... will get there some day.

    But really, why are the poisonous mushrooms the damn prettiest???

  • At 5/10/2014 6:48 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Paul - Sounds like you had a very fruitful day! Definitely a great day out.

    Hi Anon - We had read about the yabbies but didn't get a chance to hunt them.

    Hi Sara - lol maybe that applies to a lot of things in life :)

  • At 5/20/2014 10:41 pm, Anonymous Amanda @ Gourmanda said…

    Wow, I've never even heard of Belanglo Forest before - it sounds like a very unique experience!

  • At 2/26/2015 10:17 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    omg helen!!!! my client just came in and told me about this forest for mushrooms and then i googled it and fancied upon your entry! Wooo so grateful now i know which ones are poisonous when i go on the wkend :D

  • At 4/05/2015 7:50 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    Is there a specific area or are they all over the place? It's a big forest, looking to go soon but afraid of going to wrong area and waste the day. Can someone shed some light?
    Previously thought Oberon was the only place to go, so glad I stumbled on to this. Thanks Helen.

  • At 4/07/2015 12:06 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Amanda - Mushroom is definitely something you should try if you have the time!

    Hi Ellie's Belly - Do make sure you only pick the pine mushrooms and the slippery jacks. And don't even touch any of the red ones. lol

    Hi Quang - There's one main entry into Belanglo. We just stick the first series of roads. Pine mushrooms grow beneath the clumps of fallen pine noodles so that's what you're looking for. There's no guaranteed patch of pines - that's half the fun of hunting them! Make sure you only touch and pick the pine mushrooms and slippery jacks. Have fun!

  • At 4/28/2016 10:21 am, Anonymous Melinda said…

    I have been looking for the past 2 days where to go with so much information, you guys an dalso these guys were quite good and honest http://shutterbugtraveller.com/index.php/2016/04/26/mushroom-picking-sydney

    I am hoping this weekend we get to go now! Confident in finding something, anything! even not edible!!


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