Illawarra Plum

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Podcarpus elatus, also known as Illawarra plum are ripe at the moment. I found a street that had been planted with them as street trees. I grabbed around 3 kilos worth because I wanted to experiment and cook a few recipes with them. They can be eaten fresh, just wait until the flesh is soft and gives when you squeeze it. Remove the external seed by twisting it off, don’t eat the seed. Before eating and cooking I soaked them in vinegar and water just to clean them up a bit. They can also be frozen or dried.

I made fruit leather with them. I used 1 kilo of the last of the apples from our tree out back, 300 grams of the plums and the juice of half a lemon. I put it all on a pot on the stove with 1/2 cup water and cooked on a medium heat. I used the stick blender to puree then allowed it to stew for about 10 mins to bring out some of the sweetness in the apples. Then I placed in dehydrator for 7 1/2 hours at 70C. Make sure it’s completely dried before storing.

Another thing I tried that worked out well was –

Illawarra plum muffin recipe

300 grams wholemeal spelt flour

5 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

220 g coconut sugar

3/4 cup shredded coconut

400 grams Illawarra Plum, puree with stick blender

1/3 cup macadamia mylk

1/3 cup olive oil

2 eggs

2 teaspoon vanilla essence

Pre heat oven to 190C. Place all dry ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Get all the wet ingredients and whisk together until well combined. Then add the wet to the dry ingredients. Stir until it is just combined, don’t over mix the batter.

Place in a 12 hole muffin tin and cook for 25 mins or until a skewer comes out clean.

 

Beginners guide to pine mushrooms

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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 junoniusLactarius 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.

 

Kalamata olives

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We have a Kalamata tree in the backyard that’s about 15 years old. Each year it gives us a good crop of olives without too much effort. If we don’t water or fertilise it, we still get a good crop. This year we had a huge crop and interestingly I don’t think it was due to the long wet summer because the tree by spring was absolutely loaded with thousands of babies. It was clear in spring that it was going to be a bumper crop. Last winter was quite warm and maybe that had something to do with it.

Olives are a declared weed in South Australia under the Natural Resources Management Act. They grow in many Adelaide parks and conservation areas freely. These wild olives can be collected for pickling or making oil, just make sure they haven’t been poisoned by some well meaning land care group. There are literally thousands of wild olive trees loaded with fruit right now ready for picking. Cultivated olives aren’t too much of a problem as long as all the olives are collected. This minimises it’s spread into the hills by the birds. Although I think the cat is well out of the bag on that front.

I’ve been collecting a bucket from our tree a week or two apart. I’m already up to my fourth 10 litre bucket and will probably get another two or three buckets. In hindsight, this has been a very good experiment to find the ideal time to harvest the olives for flavour and texture. I didn’t mean for it to be an experiment, I’ve just been super busy and that’s how it’s worked out. I hear the best time to pick is when the tree is 80% has turned black and 20% is still green. Then you go back when the last 20% has turned black and do the rest. When Kalamata are picked too late they go soft and aren’t as nice.

This year I am doing some Zen processing of the olives – which pretty much means I’ll find a way to process them in the limited time I’ve got however that unfolds. First, I am soaking them in a 10% salt and water mix for about a week or two then straining. Then preparing a fresh batch of the 10% brine to soak for another week or so. I’ll keep doing this until they taste ok. Then when they’re ready I’ll store in a brine using my mother in laws recipe.

100 g salt per litre of water

20ml red wine vinegar per litre of water

Top jar with olive oil

When ready to eat open jar and keep in fridge, you can add oil, spices, herbs and garlic – whatever you have on hand in the garden.

It’s also nice to hot roast the olives with wild fennel seeds, orange peel and olive oil. Serve warm.

 

 

Mushroom foraging

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Over winter I finally got organised to get myself skilled up for some mushroom foraging. I did a workshop with the incredibly knowledgeable Bev Lane. She covered the principals of mushroom hunting and gave fantastic safety advice. I did some follow up research and brushed up on my plant identification skills and was ready to search out prime mushroom habitat.

I enjoyed having a good excuse to get out for bushwalks in the cold and sometimes drizzly weather. I found and tried Slippery Jacks (Suillus luteus), Weeping Boletus (Suillus granulatus), Saffron Milk Caps (Lactarius deliciosus) and Porcini (Boletus edulis). I did catch the Porcini bug once I found them and all I could think and dream about was Porcinis.

There are other varieties of edible mushrooms growing around Adelaide but I am happy with my finds for now. For example, there are plenty of field mushrooms but given they can cross breed with yellow stainers I decided against eating these.

I tried a few different ways to eat my finds but these recipes were the winners. The thing I like most about these recipes is that all the additional ingredients can be grown and sourced from South Australia.

Saffron milk cap pasta (adapted Kylie Kwong recipe)

8 garlic cloves, chopped finely
2 red onions, thin sliced
1 tablespoon Murray River salt
750g Saffron milk caps
125g b.d farm butter, roughly chopped
1/2 cup South Australian extra virgin olive oil
black pepper, cracked
1/2 cup Adelaide Hills dry white wine
½ bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Place garlic, onions and salt in a heavy-based pan. Cover with the mushrooms. Top with butter, olive oil and pepper and place, covered over high heat for 5 minutes, without stirring, to allow the flavours of the onions and garlic to penetrate the mushrooms.

Uncover. Add wine and remaining mushrooms, and stir to combine. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 5 minutes, or until mushrooms are just tender. Stir in parsley.

Serve with L’Abruzzese pasta or on top of a slice of sour dough toast.

Porcini salt

10 grams dried Porcini mushroom

1 tablespoon Murray River salt.

Dry the Porcini mushrooms on string for at least two weeks in a place in the house that doesn’t get too hot or cold. When dry put the mushroom and salt in a high speed blender and turn into dust. Use as seasoning on meat or in pasta dishes.