The Magic of Mushroom Picking
(Not Magic Mushrooms!!), Oberon NSW
The scenery of the mossy floored forests
Pine Mushrooms/Saffron Milk Caps (Lactarius deliciosus).
My gorgeous boyfriend and his wonderful family have introduced me to a new fun family activity, mushroom picking. For the last two years we have ventured up into the Blue Mountains to Oberon (2.5-3 hours out of Sydney) to forage through the state pine forests and bring home a bounty of freshly picked mushrooms. His family are Russian and mushroom picking day for Russians is kind of like tomato day for Italians. It’s a day that everyone looks forward to. It’s a long day but really enjoyable and at the end there are jars and jars of pickled mushrooms to eat all year long…until the next mushroom season.
Beautiful orange gills on the underside of the Saffron Milk Caps. Handle with care because they can bruise easily and turn a blueish-green colour. Also note the hollow stem.
There are two mushroom varieties that are edible and very safe to eat. These are the saffron milk cap and slippery jacks.The saffron milk cap is a stunning orange colour with concentric circles on the top of the mushroom. They have an indentation in the centre above where the stem is growing underneath and have a hollow stem which you’ll notice when you cut it away from the soil. Once picked these mushrooms will last in the fridge for up to a week. Delicious fried in a little butter, in a mushroom soup or stuffed. If you want to keep them longer than you’ll have to get your Russian on and do some pickling!
Slippery Jacks (Suillus granulatus)
The slippery jacks have a brown top, but once you turn them over you’ll notice bright yellow pores underneath the mushroom cap. Texture wise these feel a bit spongy. If the mushrooms are young a white membranous veil may cover the yellow pores. You can lightly scrape this veil away with a knife to reveal the yellow pores and check you have the right variety. I believe the slippery jacks get there name because if the mushrooms are moist (due to rain etc) a slimy clearish brown gluten forms on their caps, making them, well, slippery! Unfortunately these mushrooms won’t keep in the fridge. You can fry them up on the day, pickle them, or dry them to use soups or stews at a later date.
The brown caps.
The spongy yellow pores.
My mushrooming tips are…
1. Call before you do the drive. It would be a shame to drive all the way to Oberon to find that the season is a bit behind and there are no mushrooms. Call Oberon Visitors Information Centre on (02)6329 8210 a day or two before and ask what’s growing.
2. Know your mushrooms! Head to the Oberon Visitors Information Centre before you start picking. They will give you handouts that make finding the two safe mushrooms very simple. They will also give you maps and information on where the mushrooms have been growing well lately. Their address is Corner Ross Street and Edith Rd, Oberon, NSW. They’re open 10am-4pm on Saturday and Sunday and 8:30am-4:30pm Monday to Friday.
3. The rule to work with when mushroom picking is “if in doubt throw it out!”. Poisonous mushrooms will cross contaminate with your safe mushrooms and you don’t want to have to throw out your whole basket of mushrooms because you put on bad one in. If you are unsure about any of the mushrooms you have picked it’s a great idea to head back to the Oberon Visitors Information Centre to check with the staff.
4. Leave early in the morning if you’re going picking on the weekend. We got up this year at 6am to miss the traffic and it was worth it. Last year we spent an extra hour in a traffic jam as many tourists are heading to the Blue Mountains for sight seeing.
5. Take warm clothing with you. In may be a warm day in Sydney Town but when you arrive in the mountains the temperature can drop and it’s much colder than you expect. Its quite cold, mossy and damp under the shade of the pines. Trust me, you’ll be thankful you packed that extra jumper.
6. You’ll need a couple of baskets, bags or buckets to bring home your pickings. One per person is a must. Also one knife per person works well.
7. If there is rain during the week and the weekend is forecast to be dry head up on the weekend. The best time to pick is in autumn after rain as the rain enhances their growth.
Mushrooms can be bashful hiding cleverly under pine needles so keep your eyes peeled!
Once the needles are removed the specimen is found and its mine...all mine!!
Some that the snails/slugs got to first. Holey and slimed...Yuk!
Just a few of my findings.
If you are going to cook your mushrooms fresh then all your need to do is wipe them with a damp cloth. These mushies above were destined for pickling and were going to be boiled so they had a good wash under the tap. Notice the blueish-green bruising on some. I must have been a bit heavy handed. Anyway, they still taste deliciosus (like thier scientific name) anyway!
The State Forests of NSW has more than 40,000 hectares of pine plantation around Oberon, Hampton, Jenolan and Vulcan State forests so why not take advantage of it. It’s a wonderful activity that the whole family can get involved in and it’s free. It’s really a satisfying experience to literally taste your success at the end of the day.
Oberon Visitors Information Centre
Phone: (02)6329 8210
Address: Corner Ross Street and Edith Rd, Oberon, NSW.
Opening hours: 10am-4pm on Saturday and Sunday
and 8:30am-4:30pm Monday to Friday.