As a vegetarian, an important staple in my diet is mushrooms. With so many different varieties, each with their own characteristics and flavour, I could never tire of this essential ingredient.
To honour this fascinating fungus I was keen to get into the forest and learn how to pick fresh mushrooms out of the ground.
I’ve been following mushroom enthusiasts Izabella and Katriina from FinSki’s for quite a while and was busting to join them on a forest forage. Thankfully timing worked out so my pal and I bought tickets to join a tour.
We met super early on a cold Sunday morning (think gloves, beanies and eerie fog) and headed to the Belanglo State Forest in the Southern Highlands – about a 90 minute drive from Sydney.
We were in a pine forest on the hunt for two types of mushrooms – Saffron Milk Cap and Slippery Jack. I’ll focus on the former as I was much more successful finding this variety.
Saffron Milk Caps (Lactarius deliciosus), otherwise known as red pine mushrooms, are a soft pink on the top with peach coloured gills underneath and a thick, hollow stem. When freshly cut, this variety bleeds a bright orange sap and when handled the bruised mushroom stains a mouldy green colour.
Armed with sharp pairing knives, latex gloves and empty hessian bags, we headed into the forest looking for wild mushrooms. In single rows we walked along rows of pine trees, searching for mounds of browned pine leaves in the hope of discovering fresh milky caps.
It was certainly the right time to go because I uncovered so many perfect saffrons. After brushing off the dirt and cutting them at the base, most turned over to reveal perfect, untouched gills.
After visiting two different areas of the forest, the group headed to a picnic area where the FinSki’s team cooked up their fresh pickings for us to enjoy.
We enjoyed the fresh mushrooms cooked simply with oil, butter and salt served on sourdough bread with chives and crumbled feta. Perfecto.
Saffron milk caps are nutty in flavour and quite ‘meaty’. They are also sturdy and firm in texture which makes them suitable for washing excess dirt off.
The beautiful sliced caps almost look like carrots on the hot pan.
The FinSki’s ladies suggested some easy ways to cook and enjoy Saffron Milk Caps:
- Pan fry mushrooms with oil, butter and salt. Caramelise
- Dice mushrooms into half cm pieces and pan fry with onion (1kg mushrooms to 1 onion), oil and butter. Good for freezing
- Pickle mushrooms by chopping and add to a jar and the juice of dill pickles
I cooked up some of the mushrooms served them with fresh fettuccine. The remainder was wrapped up into pine mushroom wellingtons.
I had such a great time picking my own mushrooms that I’m very keen to do it again, it’s a great day out and so rewarding to get cooking with fresh produce you’ve handpicked out of the ground.
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