Strap yourself in Scoop lovelies. I haven’t had so much excitement about a post since my sister’s first comment over four years ago. You see last Sunday, my friend Heidi from Apples Under My Bed and I took our families for a Sunday forage and long lunch. And it was all in search of mushroom perfection.
We met up at Macedon and headed out to the pine forest with our host, mushroom expert Jim Fuller who I introduced to you back in this post on mushroom nutrition and how your commercially grown mushies get from farm to fork. Jim is now working at the wholesale markets with The Great Australian Mushroom Company specialising in exotics.
The fog grew thicker as we climbed the mountain, our nervous giggles got louder and our faces just a tad more apprehensive. Heid’s dad won the best equipped award with his beautiful cane basket and French mushrooming knife with built in brush. Whilst Ben, Heidi’s hubby, was best dressed with an uber cool “I’m a lumberjack and I’m ok” look. Not that we needed to worry about what we wore, once we met our field guide….
Richard Ford is a man of *ahem* well….I really don’t think he would mind me saying it……LITTLE grooming but BIG knowledge and love of mushrooms. He’s been picking, transporting, drying, pickling and supplying top Melbourne restaurants and chefs for over 25years with the best in season. And the moment he opened his mouth we were transfixed, as he eloquently, intelligently and generously shared his science, the BIG watch outs and tips with us. That’s Richard on the left and Jim on the right, in case you needed clarity.
The key to knowing your Grey Ghost mushroom from a death cap is….don’t even go there. Nope. Just don’t. If you’re new to foraging you go for exactly what the area is known for in 1-2 easily recognisable varieties. Varieties with absolutely no chance of being confused with anything remotely similar in the vicinity. And always with an experienced guide. For us, on this glorious day, that meant bright orange Pines and slimy Slippery Jacks. Oh and a jack in the box surprise too, but more about that soon. These two mushrooms are the only two “wild” varieties listed on the Power of Mushrooms website for that very reason. So we stuck together roadside, like a jittery bunch of newbies to start with.
Before long, with such wonderful feedback and encouragement from Richard, everyone started to spread out. Heidi took a different path to Ben. I know…fancy that, those love birds.
And I headed off track with Jim and my photographer, Miss 12. I’ve already told you I could listen to that man talk mushrooms all day long. And now it would seem I will follow him for them too.
This is a “yes” Pine Mushroom. See the distinct orange colour, funnel shaped top, bright gills and how they bleed orange into the stem when cut. Richard and Jim were so encouraging and shared generously with us and believe that ,“It’s only my mushroom if it’s in my basket”.
This is a definite “no’ super mario mushroom with a completely different deep red coloured top and white gills, plus distinct white flecks.
Just when we thought we had more than enough for lunch. Jim and Richard got a glint in their eye and we headed further up the mountain, where the fog is thicker and the hair is frizzier.
Cordyceps are a prehistoric looking fungi that emerge out of the ground like a witches crooked finger. And as you slowly pull, out comes a long length of mushroom with the remains of a grub casing on the end. Yep. It’s out there. And yes indeedy. The mushroom does kill the caterpillar that feeds on it to form a petrified remains. Maybe it was our low blood sugar from a delayed lunch. Or maybe it was just because it was a truly amazing experience, but we all got giggly and over excited again. And that was before Jim started on about their medicinal properties.
You see Traditional Chinese Medicine has been harping on about their “energy giving” properties (and a whole lot more) longer than Jim. The fungus became popular in the Western world in 1993 when two female Chinese athletes, beat the world records in the track and field competition at the Stuttgart World Championships for the 1,500-, 3,000-, and 10,000-meter runs. Their coach attributed the performance to cordyceps supplementation. Scientific evidence supporting benefits is only emerging including this brand new study on oxidative stress in cyclists. And thanks to Richard, Jim has only recently starting consuming this Australian native variety – Cordycep Gunnii that is symbiotic to eucalypts. So with Jim still talking up his cordyceps we headed back to the village for a lazy lunch at Olive Jones with Chef Mark. I could tell you all about that, but I know Heidi will do it better….so jump over to Apples Under My Bed and keep reading. But wait! Before you do. Check out our big announcement below.
Scoop Nutrition and Apples Under My Bed Field Trip
Would you like to come mushroom foraging too? We would love to share the experience. On Sunday June 29th we will be heading out again to Macedon Victoria with Jim and Richard. It’s a full day outing, meeting at 10:00am in Macedon and finishing lunch late afternoon. We have spots for lucky friends to join us. You will need to arrange your own transport (it’s less than hour from Melbourne) and the set price lunch is $60.00. Send your expressions of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be in touch. Oh and what did I do with my stash? Pine mushrooms with burnt butter, sage and garlic tortiglioni. It was deliciousness on a whole new level. The cordyceps? Still waiting to steep into tea when I need a boost. Stay tuned!