The soil is moist, the days are cool, the rain has fallen.
Its time for mushrooming in the forest.
The atmosphere in the forest is calm and clear and fresh. Under the pine needle mulch, the earth teems with life.
Led by my father, a very keen and experienced mushroom hunter, we were hoping to find the romantically common named saffron milk cap/pine rings or the scientifically named Lactarius deliciosus. The Latin name says it all.
In the parking lot, we met foragers returning from the forest. With baskets in hand and a glint in the eye, foragers are easy to identify.
What was collected and how they were going to prepare them were discussed. Then we were off, excited and dreaming of mushroom dishes already.
These orange-brown fungi start popping up in the Autumn in the acidic soil under conifers. If they are handled too much, they bruise a dark green colour. Knives are used for harvesting and baskets are used for collecting them in, so any spores that are released from the gills may fall back down onto the ground.
The first mushrooms we spotted were one of the toxic Russula species. These were quickly shown to the children to identify as poisonous. Please – never go mushroom foraging without an experienced mushroomer – there are far too many seriously toxic species out there. Don’t risk it – this is a job for a knowledgeable human, not Google images.
Wild brambles were spotted. But no mushrooms yet.
We were not the only species foraging in the forest.
Finding ourselves surrounded by a big troop of baboons, we stopped gazing down and looked around. A huge alpha male, mothers, uncles, aunties, sisters, brothers and babies. About 20 Chacma baboons were playing and slowly making their way up the mountain, scratching and nibbling at bits and pieces along the way.
Two massive baboons had recently and unusually raided our house, terrifying our kids in the process. So it was quite special to walk quietly through this playful and nonchalant troop and watch and enjoy them in their own environment as opposed to being fearful of them in ours. My kids now have a different outlook on them and the fear factor is somewhat reduced.
The real foragers.
And then we found them. Nestled in between some wild Centella asiatica, a couple of beautiful orange caps were winking at us. Our mushroom eyes were now open – let the hunt begin!
Did you know there is such a thing as mushroomers etiquette? Never pick the small ones, rather leave them to grow bigger. He who finds it, picks it. Dont wander over to where a stranger has struck it lucky and start picking, its rude. If you have founds loads and a sad forager walks by with nothing in their basket, you can share a few if you are feeling generous.
Satisfied with our gathered goods and our afternoons adventures, we made our way back down the mountain, discussing recipes and getting hungrier and hungrier with each step.
Mushrooms fried with garlic and fresh herbs in butter. Eaten on toast. Blended up for a hearty soup. Mushroom risotto. Mushroom quiche. Mushroom omelet. Creamy mushroom pasta. Mushroom steaks slow baked with Camembert and rosemary.
Unfortunately I have no food photos to show you – somehow the eating of the food became more important than the photographing of it. But I can assure you they were the best mushroom omelet and mushroom, Bree and rosemary quiche ever. Next time I will take photos, I promise – for there are more mushroom forages to come. We thank you mycelium. If you want to join us, we will be going on a few very small grouped forages this winter – email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Keep warm and happy Autumn!