I took some friends for a picnic yesterday at one of my mushroom hunting spots. We spent a bit of time searching for mushrooms then ate a picnic lunch and fried up some of the mushrooms we’d found. We were searching for Lactarius deliciosus and hoping for Porcini which also grow at this spot. I realised at one point that I probably take what I now know about these mushrooms for granted so I thought I’d put together a beginners guide to these mushrooms.
So here’s the disclaimer. I’m not a scientist, mycologist, botanist, fungi expert of any kind. I’m just someone who’s interested in all things edible. If you’re thinking about eating your first wild mushroom based on this post think again. Do your research and head out with someone who knows what they’re doing and collect with them. Do some courses and get to know how to identify mushrooms and plants in general. It will give you a discipline to draw from when trying to identify the edible from the not so edible.
Lactarius deliciosus mushrooms are commonly called pine mushrooms or saffron milk caps in South Australia. There are no poison lookalikes that I’m aware of growing here. Mushrooms it might get confused with are Gymnopilus junonius, Lactarius deterrimus, Lactarius semisanguifluus, Lactarius torminosus. Be aware that not all people holding workshops or courses are 100% correct all the time. They might say the wrong thing by mistake or have the wrong idea about a particular mushroom. Check and triple check the information you have been given.
The main features are a round orange blotchy depressed cap with concentric circles. The cap can be anywhere from 4 – 15 cm. As the cap gets older the edges turn up and it’s more bowl shaped. The gills are orange and close together. The stem attaches to the central part of the cap and has blotches of white on it. A few hours after picking it bruises green where you’ve handled it. When you cut the stem it exudes a orange milky sap. In the older mushrooms the stem is hollow.
Here are some of my rules when I go hunting for these guys:
- If in doubt leave it out
Don’t pick it if you have any doubt in your mind about it.
- Take children with you
They have eagle eyes and always find the best ones.
- Don’t pick ones that look a bit deformed or have any weird growth on them.
The deformity could be because they’ve been pressing on a stick or other mushroom as they grow which is ok but other kinds of deformity could be from a disease.
- Don’t pick bruised ones
These ones have been touched by something. That something could be anything. I don’t really want to imagine what that anything might be.
- Pick the young ones
These ones are the freshest and most likely haven’t been interfered with by people or animals.
- Clean as you pick
Take a sharp knife, clean paint brush and damp cloth with you. Use your brush and hands to remove any pine needles from the cap. Hold the mushroom like a you would hold a CD so the cap doesn’t drop into the dirt when you cut it. Then cut the stem horizontally with your knife. Use the cloth to clean the cap and then place gill side down in basket. This keeps the gills clean so you don’t get grit in your mushrooms and also helps spread the spores around as you walk.
- Always cook them
This should kill off any bad germs that may be on them.
- Read the landscape
These mushroom grow under mature pine trees in the Adelaide hills. Think about the space these trees grow in and how the space is being used. Do people walk their dogs here? Would people use some spaces as a toilet spot if there are no public toilets around? Are they close to paths and roads that would see more traffic on it? Try to avoid picking in high traffic areas. Also, avoid areas near young pine plantations as these get aerial bombed with glyphosate to kill grasses and other plants competing with the young pines.
- Eat that day
I’ll generally only pick what I’m going to eat that day. If you need to store them keep in the fridge in paper like you would a store bought mushroom. If you love them and end up eating heaps just be aware that your urine will go orange. Much like what happens when you eat a lot of beetroot. On that note, they are very nice but like all new food just eat a little at first you never know, you might be allergic. There are stacks of recipes on the web but I like eating them in mushroom pasta.