Foraging

Aren’t they pretty? Owy ran in with them on the weekend, having found them growing in the neighbour’s yard after all the rain we’ve been having recently. He has been to a one day truffle growing course, so is a complete fungal expert. But I Doubted.

If you belong to that group of the countless thousands of the no longer young who have bought a ramshackle fixer-upper in an isolated and very beautiful French village, you can pop down to your local pharmacy where they will identify your foraged mushrooms for you. Probably with moustache-twirling and the whole bit, I imagine, but that may be merely the cumulative effect of my recent reading. I’m just about to finish Stephanie’s Seasons (scroll down to the out-of-print titles), which is a kind of a proto-food blog- it’s Stephanie Alexander’s culinary journal for 1992 which includes her month’s holiday in Provence. Also recently, I borrowed Mary Moody’s The Long Table from the library. I recommend The Long Table if, like me, you went to Uni with one of the author’s kids and will be charmed by the many entertaining pictures of her childhood. Otherwise I’d go for Stephanie.

Anyhow, who needs moustache-twirling French pharmacists when you’ve got the internet? (Although I suspect one would come in handy for the discreet supply of amphetamines which is, I’m convinced, the real reason French Women Don’t Get Fat.)

Just tapping in “identify edible mushroom Australia” took me to this very helpful (pdf) guide from the Western Australian Agriculture Department which provided exactly the excuse I wanted not to eat these beautiful looking mushies. I’m happy to eat wild mushrooms gathered by someone knowledgeable – last year for instance, the bloke who runs Li Shen exotic mushrooms very briefly had some foraged saffron milk caps at the Farmer’s market that were fan-bloody-tastic. But we’ve had death caps grow in our yard before and I don’t crave excitement like I used to. (Commenter dylwah, a dear old friend and exalted mushroom identification guru, may testify to my youthful enthusiams.)

I figured that what Owy had found was some Agaricus xanthodermus or “yellow stainers”, because the stem discoloured yellow a little when it was cut. Of course I’m not sure now whether they would have been fine, and after reading the magnificent UK site Wild Mushrooms Online maybe they were – I didn’t notice the distinctive off smell they talk about, but I was ignorant of the test of popping them in a bag to concentrate the aroma that is suggested there.

I have been doing some more prosaic foraging, though. My (as of today, and happy birthday darling!) 6 year old locked us out of the house yesterday, so I did some gardening while we waited for my sister to rescue us. We grow “wild” rocket, which tolerates our cold winters beautifully and has overtaken what was once lawn near the bed where it was first planted. Now that it’s established on it’s own, the hundreds of tiny self seeding plants in the veggie bed need to come out so they don’t crowd out the new things we’ve planted there. This is what they call “micro herbs” up the big end of town, and a couple of hundred of them makes a great salad.

3 comments ↓

#1 Naomi (Dr Sista Outlaw) on 12.10.08 at 10:43 am

Glad to hear that Sage is finding new and innovative ways to encourage his parents to appreciate the mysteries of their suburban block …

Mushroom foraging is delightful but something one does heart in mouth. Up here in the wilds (OK, in the plantation pine forests) we get grey goose and straw mushrooms. Straw mushies are very tasty, but look terrifying. they are orange and brown, but if you bruise them the bruises go bright green. Surely it’s not wise to eat anything that looks like a 1970s nylon carpet, but I have lived to tell the tale.

#2 Zoe on 12.10.08 at 7:29 pm

Naomi, have you read Nigel Slater’s wonderful Toast? He says his mother only ever wore mushroom coloured clothes, and he never saw her without a brooch. His stepmother, on the other hand, was as crass as an RSL carpet.

#3 Dr Sister Outlaw on 13.10.08 at 4:17 pm

no, it sounds just the tonic!

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