A couple of months ago, my mum and the Lalorians visited Petty's Orchard, a sort of living museum for heirloom apple varieties tucked quietly down a lane in suburban Templestowe. It was May, so there wasn't a lot to see, apple-wise, besides the lichen-laden boughs of the trees, espaliered and trellised in various exciting configurations, but we poked around in the produce shop attached to the orchard, and after a while I noticed that Mum was looking intently at a box of pine mushrooms for sale.
We popped up to the motherland in north-east Victoria this week for a Sibling Convergence of Excellence (with Bonus Partners and Offspring and Non-Human Vertebrate Companions, so, in short, ten humans, two cats, one beagle, ten chooks) and Mum mentioned to me that there were some fungi down the road that looked very like the pine mushrooms she'd seen. I've bought pine mushrooms before - for a mere $35 a kilo or so - so I already had a good sense of what they look like, how delicious they are, and how rarely I can justify getting them. Here were multitudes, growing in the good old earth.
Saffron milkcap, aka pine mushroom, aka Lactarius deliciosus (the name's a clue), fruiting like a boss.
I'm not a super confident mushroomer. There's a mushroom that pops up round Lalor in Winter that looks quite a lot like the field mushroom, Agaricus campestris - sufficiently so that we gathered some a few years ago and started cooking them. They stunk of burning rubber and we realised, before anything untoward had happened, that they were yellow stainers, Agaricus xanthodermus. So I'm wary (I've heard enough about death-caps over the last few years), but obviously not as wary as I am greedy. Also, your Lactariuses deliciosuses are famously some of the most easily identified mushrooms in Australia.
I took a couple of photos:
Mushroom showing off her gills and bare stipe.
Mushroom showing off depressed cap.
and then plonked them up on Pfaczbuch with demands for a final verification from the team. This is not the OH&S-authorised method of suspect fungus identification, by the way, but I happen to have some very cluey friends in the foraging department. One of them (the son of a couple of early-adopter permaculturalists, who grew up eating straight from the garden, the kind of person you could rely on to magic a four-course dinner out of a roadside nature strip) instantly started reeling off synonyms for "pine mushroom": Edel reizker, revellones, saffron milk caps. So three of us adults chucked a few in our mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) soup and never looked back.
The next day, my littlest nieces and I set off up the hill behind Ma Harlot's to forage for mushrooms. Which is, you know, highly responsible aunting, especially considering that amidst the pine mushrooms were the similarly coloured Amanita muscaria, infamous psychoactive intoxicants.
Amanita muscaria, or fly agaric, hanging out in the woods .
The nieces were thrilled with the hunt. Or maybe that was just me. Someone was thrilled, anyway. We clambered back down the hill with about five kilos of beauties, and then cooked pine mushroom and kale risotto for ten people, leaving enough pine mushrooms over to accompany dinner for the next few days.
Pine mushrooms a-chopped in preparation for mush-sotto. The flesh stains a coppery blue when bruised.
Yesterday, in the hour before packing, I headed up the hill again, and gathered up a modest supply for us to take home. We left more than half of the mushrooms we spotted, not least so that they'll spore well for next year. Perhaps we needn't have worried (these mushrooms were fruiting all over the place: along a road six kilometres from my mother's house, under the deodars in the local cemetery), but there's a lot about the secret life of myco-things that I don't understand, and maybe the trees need them, or something in the soil does.
I therefore conclude with this moss-log-dolphin-wombat-hole assemblage, symbolising the interconnectedness of things and/or processes in the organic world. You're welcome :-)