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Autumn mushrooming at Nundle State Forest

Autumn mushrooming Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores

Autumn mushrooming Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores

Autumn mushrooming Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores

Autumn mushrooming Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores

Autumn mushrooming Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores

“You look like a mushroomer,” is how my friend Alena greets me as I arrive at her place for a mushrooming expedition in the state forest near our homes in north west NSW. Without any prior discussion we are twinning in long sleeved checked shirts, long pants, boots, and hats. “Do you have a knife?” Yes. “Do you have a bucket?” I have a wire basket and timber trug. ‘Uniform’ and gear sorted we make the short car journey to Nundle State Forest at Hanging Rock to look for Pine Mushrooms, also known as Saffron Milk Caps.

Duncan and I have lived at Nundle for 25 years and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to go mushrooming in the forest. Field mushrooms we are familiar with, and pounce on at every emergence. Forest mushrooms have always seemed more mystical and unknown. I have numerous friends who collect mushrooms every autumn, there are holiday house owners with European heritage who make a point of being in Nundle every autumn to collect mushrooms, and I’ve seen campers at nearby Sheba Dams sitting at large tables stringing mushrooms for drying. Mushrooming was part of Alena’s Russian childhood and I feel safe under her tutelage.

We pull up on the side of the road and venture under the pine forest canopy and walk between the rows of plantings. It is unusually quiet walking on a cushion carpet of pine needles, and still, sheltered by the pine tree roof, although we can hear wind in the distance. We both sense the surreal atmosphere of the darkness under the canopy, yet between the tree trunks we can see bright sunlight shining on the open road 100 metres away. 

Alena is worried that the canopy is too thick and there is not enough sunlight reaching the forest floor for the mushrooms to grow. The only treasure we find are the remains of an old house, crushed corrugated iron, and old bottles. Alena asks, “Does this bottle interest you? Property of McWilliams Wines.” While McWilliams dates back to 1877, this brown glass bottle is likely a more recent remnant. Neither of us need more objects in our lives.

With no sign of mushrooms we move our hunt further north, looking for younger trees and a more open part of the forest. I am happy for the long sleeves and pants as protection from blackberry snags. Sure enough as soon as we see dappled light on the forest floor we see mushrooms. They are not easy to spot, camouflaged under the russet pine needles. Alena’s more experienced eye spots the tell-tale pine needle mounds to uncover the mushrooms. As I kneel down to brush away the pine needles and cut the mushroom stalk at ground level, she says, “Careful, you’re sitting on some!” Alena kindly offers some of the mushroom mounds she finds for me to pick. Slowly I learn to see mushrooms among the pine needles; the little raised mounds of pine needles, sometimes a glimpse of a mushroom cap or side, occasionally a whole mushroom cap exposed with a small tuft of pine needles. The prize mushroom is the curve edged orange cap, with healthy orange gills. Some of the mushrooms are starting to dry out, but Alena assures me they rehydrate during pickling. Those that are way too dry we leave to compost.

On our walk back to the car Alena talks me through her process of soaking the mushrooms in brine and pickling them in spices. Even in less than ideal conditions Alena has nearly a bucket full of Pine Mushrooms and I have covered the base of my trug. She suggests we return three days after the next rain when we probably won’t even need to search for mushrooms they’ll be so prolific. Back at home I use Milkwood Permaculture’s mushroom pickling instructions. My family are dubious about the wild mushrooms, but I assure them our mushrooms look just like the Saffron Milk Caps in our references. With a generous jar of brined mushroom pickle, I am impressed by the volume of free protein fermenting in the pantry. Alena says, “I just think of the way they taste.”


If you’d like to learn more about mushrooming please explore the links below:

https://www.forestrycorporation.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/438240/mushrooming-in-nsw-state-forests.pdf.pdf

https://www.oberonaustralia.com.au/visitor-information/things-to-see-do/mushroom-picking/

https://www.diegobonetto.com/

https://www.milkwood.net/2014/03/12/how-to-go-mushroom-foraging-this-autumn-if-you-live-near-sydney/

https://www.milkwood.net/2022/09/19/pickled-mushrooms-recipe/

Warning and disclaimer. Some mushrooms are poisonous. If in doubt, go without. Seek out an experienced mushroomer for guidance.


Megan Trousdale
Megan Trousdale

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