Not content with our mushroom forage in Myrtleford we wanted to test our prowess out in the pine forests of Canberra.* In spite of the quite dry weather we have already had two successful mushroom hunts.
Our first foray we picked almost only Slippery Jack mushrooms and literally a handful of Saffron Milkcaps. This past week we have found a substantial plot of Saffron Milkcaps and by contrast only a few Slippery Jacks.
Here they are.
We celebrated our haul with our foraging friends by scoffing scads of freshly fried Saffron Milkcaps, sauteed with garlic from friend M’s garden on lovely Mosaics Sourdough bread.
Once we got home the dehydrator was working overtime drying the Slippery Jacks that we picked. But we have also been trying out some other options.
My partner in crime tried out a recipe for cooking the mushrooms in oil, then adding vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and bottling them.
Last of all I put aside 600 grams of mushrooms (both types) to make a Wild Mushroom Cheesy bake from a New York Times recipe my friend sent me. I found the dish very satisfyingly filling. I would definitely add more mushrooms the next time I make this recipe as I thought the cheese to mushroom ratio was too high in favour of the cheese. Don’t despair if you don’t have wild mushrooms, you can also make this recipe using shop bought mushrooms. If you read the comments on the recipe (online at the NY Times) you will see all sorts of other flavour variations that other people have tried.
*Please do not forage for mushrooms if you are not with an experienced forager or have been trained by an experienced forager. Deaths from eating wrongly identified mushrooms have occurred in recent years in the Australian Capital Territory.
At last we’ve made it out to our favourite foraging spot to pick this year’s feral apples. It’s a good year with the trees slumping over with the large number of apples on them.
Its clear that others have also been picking, but there is so much fruit at present that even after we’ve had a go there’s still plenty left. Three of us managed to pick about 100 kilograms of fruit in under two hours. We picked from some 10 different trees and there were easily twice as many we could have choosen from. From here we will move to pulp the bulk of the fruit to make apple juice and apple cider.
There are also a small number of quince trees that sit alongside our favourite apples trees. For once, the person who normally picks them out before I get there, left quite a few quinces behind. I plan to make some quince and vanilla jelly, I may even try a quince vanilla and rose geranium variation. I need to get onto this quickly as I just finished eating my last batch of the same.
Blackberries would have to be the most readily foraged plant in Canberra. They grow throughout the territory along roadsides and in an amazing number of scrubby areas tucked into the city’s suburbs. Yet given the cost of blackberries at the markets or shops, (or worse still potential infection from poorly handled frozen berries) very few people are actually out there picking.
One of our fellow foragers commented that as a child in country Victoria, any spot like the one where we were picking would attract quite a number of cars. Yet here we were with only the company of passing cyclists and Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos calling in the nearby forest.
People tell me that they are put off by the thought of snakes – I’ve never seen any while picking yet – and the potential for eating berries that have been sprayed by poison. On the latter point the ACT government is so civilised that it gives fair warning of spraying with signs and by using brightly coloured dye when they do spray. The biggest danger I have experienced is getting thorns stuck in my fingers, as I don’t use a glove on my picking hand. I even got a top tip recently for fixing that problem – just put some PVA glue on the spiked finger and after the glue has set, peel it off and the thorns will come out with it.
To say there is a large quantity of fruit to pick is an understatement. In about an hour and a half of easy picking we managed to collect a good 6 litres of fruit between four of us. Even better once we got back to our friend’s place we ate some of what’s left of last year’s harvest served up in this cake dolloped with yoghurt mixed with maple syrup.
What’s not to like about that. See you on the roadsides!