FinSki’s journal of all things mushrooms
April 2014: Mushrooming with the Youth Food Movement Australia
Bella and I had the good fortune to meet an amazing group of people who give their time to helping make aware to young Australians the need to take ownership of the development of a healthy and secure food future here in Australia… Youth Food Movement Australia
With two Guerrilla dinners planned, the menu was designed with exact knowledge of where and how the produce came to their plates…
“You’ll be enjoying a beautifully crafted ‘paddock to plate’ menu alongside a specially designed conversation menu, and get to know the food and the local providores who brought it to you! ”
So on a very warm Autumns day we took YFM to The Southern Highlands to forage for enough mushrooms to feed their guests. After a brief about the mushrooms to be collected we all headed in.
After a few hours and most baskets getting full, we headed back to the cars to rehydrate and have lunch. With so many helping hands the YFM had enough saffron milk cap mushrooms for their main course of Pine Mushroom Parcels… and a spare few mushrooms to cook up. Nothing beats foraging for your food and cooking it there and then, heaven!
Carefully laying out the mushrooms in their beds, they were ready to be taken back to Sydney.
It was a great day and such an opportunity to meet amazing people.
FinSki’s gave gift bags for the two nights of both the Dried Saffron Milk Cap Mushrooms and the Dried Slippery Jacks…
March 2013: FinSki’s first mushrooming tour
What a fantastic start to the 2013 mushrooming season it has been! Bella and I headed out a few weeks ago to see if mushrooms were about… through the grape vine, or more appropriately, the mycelium (sorry, bad mushroom joke!) we had heard they were appearing. The weather has been a bit warm but NSW did have quite a bit of rain this month so the chance of mushrooms was good.
What a treat it was, the Saffron Milk Caps were in abundance and there were many other eager mushroomers out in force. Lots of them not even making it into the forest but getting caught up early on the road by the beautiful orange fungi strewn across the pine needle floor.
The idea to get the first mushrooming tour going a little sooner than expected came when we both saw the large amount of Saffron Milk Cap heads breaking through the ground. The tour would be guaranteed to pick plenty of mushrooms the following week to keep everyone happy.
Done! A letter went out to all the families of Imogen’s school and before we knew it we had a fully booked tour.
With a 7:15 am call time to meet at Lane Cove, we then drove as a convoy to Belanglo to arrive there close to 9:00 – a full day of mushroom foraging lay ahead. The ground was covered with Saffron Milk Caps, it was very easy to show everyone the ones to pick and as expected, the little heads we saw about to break through the ground the week prior were now perfect and meaty.
A few hours was spent mushrooming with everyone getting full baskets of Saffron Milk Caps. The kids had as much fun as the adults – maybe more, as there were some great big, muddy puddles with frogs that caught their attention while we re-fueled with coffees back at the cars… Tip: You can’t ever have too many changes of clothes for the kids!
You don’t even need to come along to pick mushrooms, it’s great for artists…
Yabby catching didn’t work out to be as successful as mushroom foraging, but lots of fun was still had. I think only one was caught!
With all the families laying out their spread for lunch we got on to one of my favourite parts of the day and that is cooking what we had just foraged. Nothing beats being able to go out and gather your food and then to cook and eat it right there and then – such a hunter-gather feeling.
The favourite meal for lunch is sauteed mushrooms - sauté the thickly sliced mushrooms in some butter, season with salt and pepper and eat it with some beautiful bread. Eggs, both omelet and scrambled with chorizo or tomato just makes this meal into a warming feast. So very satisfying!
The kids had a ball and we know that each one of them will be back to do it again. A lovely experience that will also teach them the ins and out of mushroom foraging that will be with them for life.
The boys are nothing but tenacious when it comes to catching yabbies.
We had such a fantastic day and look forward to our next tour, along with all that lays ahead of us this year for FinSki’s… lots of new recipes, stories plus our glorious products for you to buy.
Happy FinSki’s… Blondie :)
June 2012 – Slippery Jack Mushrooms
I’m feeling a little sad about the end of autumn, mainly because it marks the end of the mushroom picking season for 2012. Mushroom picking is a funny thing, it’s amazing how foraging for your own food can give you so much pleasure and with each trip I am left with new memories that I know will last a life time. I am so pleased that my daughter has followed in my foot steps and begs to be woken up at the crack of dawn when we go mushroom picking, in fact all I have to do is whisper the word ‘mushroom’ in the morning and she sits up instantly, can’t say that it’s as easy to get her to wake up in the morning on a school day. Sebastian her BFF and his pet dog are equally keen ‘shroomers’ which makes mine and Blondie’s life very easy when we take off each weekend.
I love Slippery Jacks and Saffron Milk Caps equally, each of them have their own natural beauty and flavour, however when it comes to cooking with them not all cooking styles suit each mushroom. Saffron’s are fantastic thrown onto a hot plate or pan with some butter and salt and eaten with some sourdough bread. Slippery’s on the other hand will turn to mush. Saffron’s make a great nutty flavoured paste where as to make paste from the Slippery’s you need to dry them first. May this year was our second trip to Oberon. Blondie and I were very prepared! We purchased bread crates to store what we knew was going to be a massive haul! I should point out that whilst I purchased mine, Blondie was far more resourceful than I and got her’s for free!
As you can see we did very well. We actually picked twice the above amount. Proudly displaying my mushroom stash photos when we got back to Sydney I was asked ‘so what will you do with them?’ Answer: Dry them of course!
So what’s a Slippery Jack?
Slippery Jack mushrooms (Suillus Luteus) are part of the Bolete group of mushroom. They traditionally grow in autumn and are in abundance after the rains.
Contrary to what some people think, Slippery Jack’s are definitely edible mushrooms, they have been eaten by the Poles for many, many years. They are pickled, dried, feature in soups, pierogi, pancakes, stews and the list goes on. It is said that the skin from the Slippery Jack can cause indigestion to some, I have never experienced this but maybe it’s because I’m a Polak and we eat these year round! Their characteristic is a brown cap with slime over the top, hence the name Slippery Jack. It’s not a mushroom that I am in favour of eating fresh as I think that it tastes much better dried and re-hydrated. Mum’s Christmas (Wygilia) mushrooms soup is honestly to die for! No pun intended!
With my mushroom stash home it was time to roll my sleeves up and get to work! I peeled all of them, sliced them into small portions and was ready for the drying process to begin.
Dried Slippery Jack’s – the how to
Peel and slice your mushrooms. The thinner the slices the quicker it will take to dry them. Place them on oven racks and pop them into an oven at 50° C, you will need to leave the door open just slightly to have some of the air circulating. I always pop some baking paper underneath each tray as well. The Slippery’s are quite watery and will excrete some liquid. Half way through the drying process they should look something like this… My end result after 2 days of drying. I should point out that my 3 bread crates turned into 3 bowls this size full. So what happens to these babies next? Ahh well, you will have to stay tuned and visit our next installment! Bella
Late April 2012
Mushrooming day trip
There are still plenty of the Saffron Milk Caps around but no where near the amount of Slippery Jacks that we had at Oberon.
With it’s bright orange colour and firm meaty body, there is no confusing a Saffron Milk Cap / Pine Mushroom with any other kind of mushroom available here in Australia
After a few hours and a nice stash of mushies we headed to the clearing for lunch. What else could we have but a Pine Mushroom Omelet with avocado and a grating of vintage cheese. The kids go another chance to catch some yabbies.
19 April 2012:
Blondie and Bella’s Oberon weekendThe last time I visited Oberon I must have been around 10 years old. It was during autumn when mum and dad took me and my brother Konrad on one of our mushroom picking expeditions. I had forgotten how beautiful the region was Blondie and I had promised ourselves that we would make our way to Oberon this mushroom picking season so it was just a matter of when. School holidays came up and we saw the perfect opportunity to skip town with the kids and see what all the fuss was about. The mushroom picking trips I was accustomed to were the type where upon entering the forest you would be greeted with a stack of mushrooms pocking their heads through the pine needles, looking up at you. You literally would not be able to move more than a few meters as there would be so many mushrooms to pick! It was a 3.5 hour trip, traffic was OK. (Note from the driver: Bella slept the first 1.5 hours!) Half way into the trip we stopped at Jen’s place (Blondie’s sister) in Woodford, who made the most amazing cinnamon tea cake. The stop was a good opportunity for the kids to stretch their legs before the next 1.5 hours.
We got into Oberon at about 1.30 pm and were greeted by forests galore. Oberon has 5 state forests that are nothing like the ones in the Southern Highlands. First stop was at the Oberon Tourist & Information Center where we were greeted by the lovely Lynne. Note to everyone – please make sure that you stop at the centre. Lynne will be able to give you excellent information about the area, you can pick up maps and get directions for where the best mushroom picking spots are. Maps in hand we checked into the Jenolan Caravan Park and headed out for our afternoon reconnaissance mission… We headed down a very bumpy road and entered the forest. As we made the slow drive down the road my heart started to slowly sink, I saw one or two mushrooms but I was beginning to think that the trip would be a slight waste.
I had high hopes for this trip and was getting a little nervous. We drove a little further and turned a corner and whilst I wasn’t in mushroom heaven yet I was quietly happy. I was greeted by a couple of slippery jacks popping their heads through the pine needles. These are my favourite mushrooms! Mum makes the most awesome mushroom soup from these.
Within a few minutes I was in mushroom heaven! The forest floor was filled with slippery jacks. If we had a trailer I am sure we could have filled it!
With sun going down we decided to leave the forest and head back to the caravan park for a yummy dinner and some well earned rest. As far as we were concerned then next day’s mushroom picking possibilities were endless! The next day we woke up to a beautiful frosty morning at the caravan park and had a delicious brekky before we set out for the days foraging.
Just before mushroom picking we took Sebastian and Imogen for precious stone fossiking at the Oberon Information Center. It was a bit of fun for the kids and both walked away with some special stones. It’s a gold coin contribution to enter the fossiking area but for a bit of fun and we highly recommend it if you have little ones.
It was time for more serious work…mushroom picking! Blondie and I worked each side of the road with the kids helping. The forest was filled with saffrons and slippery jacks so both of us were over the moon! Mushroom picking is a funny art, at first when you arrive at the forest you seem to see absolutely nothing, it’s not until you get down really low and pick the first mushroom that your eyes train themselves on the forest floor and you see what lies beneath. It took us about 3 hours to walk up what I now call mushroom road. We could barley move a few meters as there were so many mushrooms to pick! It was wonderful. They kids had an awesome time as well. We decided to call it a day at about 2pm with a car load of mushrooms! It was one of the best mushroom picking trips I had ever been on. The next week was spent drying, smoking, pickling and making paste from our beauties! Tips on a mushroom picking trip to Oberon
- Be sure to call into the Oberon information centre and speak with Lynne. Call them a few days before you plan on leaving to ensure that you know the weather is right. The centre is located at 48 Ross Street Oberon NSW 2787
- If you are looking for a place to stay contact Sally from the Jenolan Caravan Park, it’s simple, clean and tidy. It’s a great place for that overnight stop. The caravan park is located at 7 Cunynghame Street Oberon NSW 2787
- Blondie and I live by the rule if in doubt, go without! If you are unsure about a mushroom species then don’t pick it!
Sadly the mushroom season is almost over! Blondie and I have a few more trips planned and look forward to sharing these with you in the next few weeks! Some more pretty pictures…
Mushrooming trip #2
We went for our second mushroom forage for this year, on the weekend – back to our usual spot, Belanglo.
Our first trip, about 3 weeks ago gave us a promising outlook for the season. Although there weren’t many, we did come across a decent selection of our favourites – Saffron Milk Caps and Slippery Jacks. Our thinking was that because there were quite a few so early in the season, that when we arrive this weekend there should be loads more… So wrong! Our hopes were high as we turned into Daley’s Rd – we saw mushrooms, lots of mushrooms. They were mainly the poisonous red and white Fly Argaric, but they have usually been a very good indicator for a prosperous day of edible wild mushroom picking.
We chose to pass our usual first pit stop at Daley’s Clearing and head straight to the area where we had scored quite well a few weeks back. Again, lots of mushrooms but not our ones.
Of interest though were the large amount of Brown Mushrooms. They had such a beautiful, full, earthy, mushroom aroma and were the same size and grew the same way as the Saffron Milk Caps.
Mushroom rule no.1 – If you don’t know it don’t use it
I collected two specimens and put them into isolation, hoping to learn what they were. I hated the idea of leaving behind such gorgeous mushrooms if they were edible – next time I will know!
Here is the ultimate of ‘do I or don’t I?’ Right at the entrance of a massive wombat hole is a perfect Saffron Milk Cap. Thoughts were, was it placed there by an evil wombat waiting to jump out just as I reach in to get it, or a practical joke TV show targeting unsuspecting mushroomers? It remains!
Lunchtime and we head back to Daley’s Clearing. It’s quite busy with families, and a large group there on an educational tour of mushrooming. My son hooked up with a large family who were kind enough to take him in and show him the ins and outs of fishing for yabbies.
Needless to say, yabbying will now have to be included on our mushrooming trips to Belanglo – the kids have demand it!
For our lunch, Bella had suggested just bringing some eggs with us this time – we have normally brought something like stew or mushroom pancakes etc, with us and cooked it over the portable stove top.
So I made a basic scramble egg and then sauteed some of the freshly harvested Saffron Milk Caps with butter, a herby salt and pepper. It was just heaven!
After lunch we heading to Penrose State Forest but it was more mushroom barren than Belanglo.
All in all, it was a low yielding mushroom trip but was probably one of our best trips to date.
Oh, and if anyone has any idea as to what the brown mushrooms are please let me know
Project: Swiss brown
Drum roll… We had a mushroom picking ceremony at my house yesterday… “what is that?” I hear you ask. Yesterday afternoon Imogen my 6 year old got to pick the first home grown mushroom with much fan fare – even used her very own mushroom picking knife! A few weeks ago I decided to try my hand at growing my own mushrooms and I have succeeded, so much so that I’m making a run to Blondie’s house this afternoon as my babies are literally multiplying! Like most people I get huge satisfaction from growing my own produce, harvesting it and presenting it to the family for dinner, doing this in a concrete jungle where my car can hardly fit into the carport is another thing. I remember mum giving button mushroom an attempt when I was about 11 years old and failing! Mum followed the instructions, put the box in the laundry and set off with my brother and I to one of my school concerts. We came home to a house full of mushroom mud! Our German Sheppard thought it was his new digging ground! My problem was where on earth was I going to place these babies? I ordered my swiss brown mushroom kit from a company called Fungi based in QLD. They had a huge variety of kits and I was like a little girl in the lolly shop! I wanted to buy them all but couldn’t come up with a solid case for why we should be turning our house into a mushroom nursery so I was happy with just trying the one kit… for now! The instructions were dead easy! Open the box, throw the casing material in, water daily (spray mist) and watch magic happen! We placed the box in our laundry where it is cool, humid and dark. For approx 4-5 days absolutely nothing happened until one morning Imogen popped her head into the laundry and started to yell! Hooray… the mushrooms have started to pin! I have no idea how Imogen picked this up because I honestly did need a magnifying glass to see what she was looking at!
From then on they would literally double in size from morning to night! I would leave the house in the morning with babies and in the afternoon I would have toddlers! It was so exciting to see magic happen! According to Fungi and the growing instructions I should get about 3-4 flushes & they take between 2-3 weeks to appear after each flush. I already have baby pins popping up again! I can’t tell you how excited both Imogen and I have been about this accomplishment! The ones I picked yesterday are going into my mushroom, ham and asparagus risotto this evening, YUM! Now how on earth do I convince my husband that I want to turn my house into a mushroom production line??? PS… credit for food styling goes to Imogen, my 6 year old. Bella
The beginning or our mushrooming odyssey
Our love for mushrooms, specifically the Saffron Milk Cap (Pine mushrooms) runs deep!
I was introduced to wild mushroom foraging by Bella and her parents early Autumn 2011. For years we had planned to do a mushroom picking trip but as each season came around neither of us could get ourselves organised in time. Finally – one weekend in March, when Bella’s parents were making their weekend trip, we decided to get up at 6am, pack the kids and make the 1.5 hour drive down south for our first experience!
With google maps in hand, we set off for Belanglo State forest. Bella’s parents have been picking mushrooms here for the last 25 years – it’s huge amongst the Polish community, so is well traversed – but still, when you first enter the forest the very first thing you see is a huge warning sign stating,
“Welcome to Belanglo State Forest
Please Be Careful”
Knowing the horrors that have happened in this forest really makes you want to take heed of this warning completely! Driving into Daley’s Clearing we were both relieved to be greeted with an open area filled with families busily prepping their baskets or buckets ready to set out for the day’s forage. There were camp sites and caravans for the groups that chose to spend the weekend there, either foraging through the forest for their mushrooms or simply dangling string with meat attached for the yabbies in the large dam.
Sebastian and Imogen took to mushroom picking like ducks to water, once they were told what to look for, it was second nature to them.
This is Bella’s dad, Dziadek showing Sebastian and Imogen one of the many wombat or fox holes inside the forest. The kids loved being in the fresh pine air and were very inquisitive about every hole or insect they found. As both kids soon found out, mushroom picking can be hard work and both worked up an appetite very quickly!
Seeing these in all their natural state, so fresh and clean I finally understood what all the excitement was about and why people love picking these so much. Once you found one you trained your eyes on surrounding spots to look for more, and more and more…
…until within about an hour I had these…
From that weekend onwards it was just a matter of watching the weather, praying for a little rain and looking forward to another weekend of mushroom picking!
Whilst its only spring, Bella and I are already counting down the months to next years season and are looking forward to experimenting with some lovely new recipes! In the meantime we would love to hear of your mushrooming expeditions or tips and know how. Blondie & Bella