Gardening

Mushroom Foraging

My oh my, it’s been a while since I last posted! A series of unfortunate events (including the death of my rather old and beloved computer) and a rather excellent event (falling pregnant with our second child) have prevented me from posting but now I’m back and blogging and hopefully you, my lovely readers, will forgive my absence 🙂

I thought it would be nice to get back on the downshifting wagon by getting back to basics and it doesn’t get more basic than foraging! Foraging is even easier than growing your own fruit or veggies because mother nature has done all the work for you, all you’ve got to do is show up ready to reap the delicious bounty!

When I was a little girl we would visit my Nan and the rest of my Mum’s family each Easter. They live out in central west New South Wales and one of my earliest memories is troops of cousins, Aunts, and Uncles piling into various vehicles, driving out to someone’s property, and collecting the wild field mushrooms that had sprung up after the Easter rains. My sister and I were reminiscing the other day and she recalled being given a cute little basket in which to collect her mushrooms whilst holding Nan’s hand, as she was one of the youngest. I had to do with an old plastic ice-cream container. Go figure.

So back to my more recent mushroom foraging adventure. As I’m located in Sydney wild field mushrooms aren’t that easy to come across and more importantly my Nan is still an eight hours drive away so unable to oversee my mushroom identification. I find it’s always best to learn foraging skills and knowledge from someone standing next to you. The wonders of YouTube and Wikipedia can only take you so far. Luckily for me the rather amusing Diego from Wild Stories runs pine mushroom foraging workshops from Sydney each year. There were multiple benefits to me taking this course:

  1. pine mushrooms were not something anyone in my family was familiar with as they are not native to Australia so it would increase our collective knowledge rather than duplicate it
  2. they are very distinctive so I knew I would be confident foraging alone after completing the course
  3. they are found close enough to home (the State Forest) that I would actually be able to make use of my new skills, and
  4. pine mushrooms are crazy expensive to buy at farmers’ markets etc so the course would pay for itself after the first or second forage.

The day started bright and early in Enmore as our small group clambered into a minibus and headed down south to the State Forest. At our first stop Diego explained exactly what we were looking for (Lactarius deliciosus or Saffron milk caps and Suillus luteus or slippery jacks), where to find them, and how to collect them. Some interesting points included the use of baskets (for spore distribution rather than aesthetics- though it is rather quaint to stroll around the forest with a basket), and how to cut the mushroom off at the stalk leaving the base to help generate more mushrooms. As mother nature provides the free bounty it’s up to us to collect and share it responsibly. We then collected some of the mushrooms in the area and came together to share what we had found. The vast majority were inedible and it was very valuable to be able to compare those we were aiming to collect (pine mushrooms) to those we were avoiding (everything else, see photos of amazing but unsafe and in some cases hallucinogenic fungi below). Then it was off to another two locations to seek our prey.

donteat1

donteat2

donteat3

donteat4

donteat5

It was so peaceful walking through the forest, the grass and air still heavy with moisture from the morning dew. It was almost intrinsic scanning the forest floor and gathering the copper fungus. It felt wholesome. I felt centred.

Forest

Soon I would also feel full as Diego lit a fire and demonstrated a hearty mushroom meal cooked on the woodfired BBQ. The pine mushrooms were wiped clean of any debris, sliced, and tossed with a little garlic and fresh rosemary. The BBQ was given a liberal splash of olive oil and those beautiful ochre morsels sizzled away. Served simply on paper plates (later added to the fire to help it along in the drizzly rain) with a slice of fresh bread we were happy with our reward for a morning’s forage.

BBQ

Reward

Soon after we piled back on the bus to Sydney and before I knew it I was back home cleaning and preparing my remaining saffron milk caps. I cleaned with the aid of a cloth and a pastry brush (perfect for flicking out any bits of dirt from the gills), then sliced and cooked in batches in my cast iron skillet. I added olive oil and garlic but not too many herbs as I froze most in small serving sizes for later use in various recipes (apparently the best way to keep them as they don’t store well).

haul

pinemushroom

range

The mushrooms start small and round with the edges curled under then open up as they grow older. You don’t want them once they’re too large as they’re not as flavoursome. You’ll also notice they bruise easily when handled and the bruises are green!

babies

cleaning

saffrommilk

You can see why they’re called saffron milk caps! The colour of their milk or sap is bright orange when freshly cut. It stains your fingers too.

gills

cooking

The last big batch served on top of creamy polenta for dinner. So delicious!

polenta

Advertisements

Family Visit & Citrus

I have been very busy of late, so busy in fact I’ve had little time to contribute to this blog. A (temporary) full-time job and a toddler has left me worn out and craving an escape. So escape we did!

For my recent birthday weekend my husband, daughter, and I piled into our old vehicle and drove up the coast to stay at my parent’s house for the weekend. It was so nice to get out of Sydney, like they say, a change is a good as a holiday and a change of scenery for 24 hours was just what we needed.

Snow drop

The highlight for me was just walking around the garden with my daughter. She carried a little basket and collected things. We stopped and smelled every flower, looked at every bird, chased each other, and just generally enjoyed the peace and fresh air.

Willa and basket

Willa, Wazza, and Uncle

Being Winter my parent’s garden was full of citrus fruit and before we left we picked a bag each of tangelos, naval oranges, blood oranges, lemons, limes, and a little basketful of cumquats. The task took rather longer than expected as each piece of fruit was picked, handed to little Willa Rose, who then placed it carefully in the bag or basket. The extra time was worth it to see her pride in a job well done, and laugh at her feigned exhaustion if she was asked to carry more than one piece of fruit at a time.

Over the next few posts I’ll share what I did with our massive citrus haul. How do you deal with a citrus glut?

Green Cities

There’s an assumption or stereotype that cities are grey places- drab skyscrapers, smog, people in monochrome suits shuffling from home to work and back again- but it doesn’t have to be so. In fact in my neck of the woods things are changing and have been changing for some time. I’m not just talking about parks, though there’s plenty of those, it’s the building themselves that are changing. Green rooves are appearing on buildings all across Sydney (there are 49 to date) with one of the most renown, MCentral apartment building on Harris Street in Pyrmont, right down the road. At the other end of Harris Street the Central Park development is underway (see photo below) and it epitomises green. To quote from their website:

“Frasers was one of 13 major property owners and developers to join the City of Sydney’s Better Buildings Partnership, an unprecedented collaboration committed to delivering the City’s target of 70% reduction in carbon emissions in CBD buildings by 2030.

Other eco-friendly innovations include water recycling, solar panels and tri-generation energy plants, plus car sharing programs, pedestrian paths and cycleways to reduce traffic.”

Oh and the buildings are covered in plants, did I mention that? The Central Park development moves past mere green rooves to entirely green buildings. I don’t know what your city looks like but mine is getting greener everyday and I love it.

Central Park construction

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Have you ever seen this plant?

YTT

It’s called Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (botanic name: Brunfelsia bonodora). The flowers last three days- the first they are bright purple, the second they fade to a softer mauve, the third to almost white. It’s a wonderful reminder of how quickly time passes and we should take pleasure in the little things, even small fading flowers.

The Japanese traditionally use cherry blossoms as a symbol to remind them life is short, and it’s beautiful. Is there a special plant in your garden that makes you stop and reflect?

Gone to Seed

flowering parsley

The parsley in our community garden has gone to seed. We love this as it means we will have more (free) parsley plants popping up in the not-to-distant future. What is your take on plants going to seed? Do you allow the process to happen naturally or do you intervene in order to maximise your harvest?

In My Teapot

I thought I share a peak inside my teapot. All herbs were grown just outside our back gate on the verge  and were picked and washed immediately before being popped in the teapot. The herbs are rose geranium, mint, and chamomile. I also added some freshly grated ginger and little runny honey. Delicious!

Chamomile plant

Herbs

inside teapot

Of course there are many different herbal teas you can make at home, with either fresh or dried herbs. It’s great to be able to tailor a blend to meet your needs. My all time favourite drink is peppermint tea and even with two mint plants I don’t have enough mint to drink it fresh all the time! Sometimes when I’m making a pot of the dried teabag version I will crush or chop up just a couple of leaves and throw them in for the vibrancy. What is your favourite herbal tea? Do you make or grow your own blend?

pour

herbal tea

Seedling Cloche

You may remember my loofah seedlings from my Reuse Greenhouse post. Well they were ready to be planted out so they have been relocated to the garden bed, a large pot, and a couple even made it to my mother’s garden up the coast. Those that remained in my garden have been protected with more reuse- drink bottle cloches! We don’t go through a lot of soft drink in this house so I had to make the most of my empty soda water bottle. I cut it in two and the top section was ready to use straight after removing the lid, the bottom half required thirty seconds with a drill to create a hole in the top. Ta da! Safe seedlings!