You know the saying: “give a man a mushroom and he’ll have a nice brunch, teach a man to forage for wild mushrooms and he’ll open a trendy cafe”. Mushroom picking is the best, but you want fungi that you can eat without getting sick or (too) psychedelic. Julian from LifeCykel spends his life with mushies – he’s shared his tips on how to find a forest feast.
Mushroom foraging is always a fun forest activity – whether you’re with friends, family or heading out solo. Harvesting wild mushrooms in nature brings you calmness, revives sensations like touch, smell and sight, and brings you back to a deeper state of human nature; you’re looking for food to survive, exploring and tapping into your ancestry.
You should always act with respect for nature and only pick the quantity of mushrooms you need. Think of others, both humans and animals, who access the power of mushrooms for immune benefits.
Wear comfortable clothing and footwear when going mushroom foraging as you’ll be walking for a few hours in a humid environment. Make sure to wear long pants, long sleeves and waterproof shoes (gumboots particularly if it has been raining a lot before).
Stay clear of any area with moving trucks or where timber harvesting and logging is taking place.
If your sense of direction isn’t good, be sure to take a compass and map, and wear bright clothing so others can find you if you get lost.
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When in groups, make sure to stay in sight of each other. The best way is to keep walking in a straight line into the forest from where you have started. Singing aloud and talking while walking deeper into the forest is a good way to stay in contact with each other and scare away any snakes.
Where Do I Find Them?
The best place to go mushroom foraging is your closest pine forest, or along creeks on fallen logs. Pine needles extended on the ground surface create a perfect humidity and temperature controlled soil for the mushrooms to pop out.
To help you to find a good spot, search for pine forests online. For instance, if you are in Sydney region, head to Oberon, about a 3-hour drive from the city and surrounded by state pine forests. Other than pine forests search online for national parks that contain running rivers and creeks. Along these waterways look for decaying logs you are likely to find mushrooms on them.
Many pine forests are state forests, head here for more info.
When’s The Best Season To Forage For Wild Mushrooms?
To grow in abundance mushrooms need specific environmental conditions. They usually pop out between 3-5 days after they have been facing stressful conditions, such as heavy rain followed by consecutive sunny days. Ideal temperatures are between 15°C and 23°C
Autumn and Spring are the best seasons to go mushroom foraging. The changing of season both in and out of winter make for the perfect environment for mushrooms to grow.
Which Mushrooms Am I Looking For?
There are two common edible and well-spread mushrooms that you can easily find in pine forests.
The first one is the Saffron Milk Cap also called the Red Pine Mushroom (Lactarius deliciosus).
It looks like a big orangey-brown autumn leaf from the top and underneath it has orange lamella. The edge might be either incurved or upturned if more mature.
The second edible mushroom commonly found in pine forest is known as the Slippery Jack (Suillus luteus), part of the Bolete fungus family. The slippery jack has a dark to light brown color on the top and has spongy gills underneath. To cook the slippery jacks, you will need to pull away and remove the sponge, discard the stem and peel the top skin. The slimy top layer of skin may cause stomach upsets if not well peeled. The best ones to eat are the younger and smaller in size, these have a stronger taste.
How To Harvest Wild Mushrooms
You should always have specific tools with you to help you to forage easily. Your wild mushroom foraging kit should include a sharp knife, some baskets for collecting mushrooms and boxes for transporting them back home.
When harvesting the mushroom, cut it at the stem with a knife, making sure that you don’t harvest the mycelium (the white roots of the mushroom underground) to preserve the biodiversity of the forest. By maintaining the mycelium within the soil you’ll ensure more mushrooms will grow back in future seasons.
It’s similar to fishing — with mushroom foraging only take what you need. The strength of forests and ecosystems lies in their biodiversity, the more varieties of mushrooms you find, the more resilient the ecosystem.
Disclaimer: Foraging for wild mushrooms can get a little ‘Into The Wild’ if the ones you pick end up being poisonous. If you go for a forage it’s at your own risk, so make sure you do your research or go with a shroom expert.
Photos thanks to @loser_lewis unless otherwise indicated.
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