About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Thursday, April 06, 2006
Weather Change
A big ol' honkin' low pressure system has made its way up from the Southern ocean, bringing showers and cold winds in its wake. In Victoria we prosaically call it a cool change, in New South Wales they call it a southerly buster and they should know as one of these systems busted up Australia's best known yacht race, the Sydney to Hobart, killing six sailors in 1998.

This system brings typical winter weather here, cold and wet with snowfall on the alps, and the one that is hovering over us now has signaled the end of fine autumn weather. Which is making me rather happy.

You see cold, wet weather + autumn = mushrooms.

We were out and about last weekend, and our travels took us to Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula, where we stopped off at an apple orchard to get new season apples. Bags of the aptly named golden delicious, red delicious, gala, the lovely old timer, snow apples as well as packham pears made their way to our car boot. I was talking to Elsie at the orchard and she was telling me in a couple of weeks they will have cox's orange pippin and johnogold apples as well as all the other varieties.

While we were in the area, we stopped off to stretch our legs in a picnic area. As we wandered we saw signs of someone already picking, then we found a couple of slippery jacks, a bit old to be bothered with, but there they were. Mushrooms.

Funnily we don't often pick field mushrooms (agaricus spp.), mostly we get slippery jacks (suillus luteus) and saffron milk caps (lactarius deliciosus) and we have a couple of secret spots where we find birch mushrooms (leccinum scabrum). We also have friends who have planted silver birch trees just to get birch mushrooms, which they do every year.

Usually we dry the slippery jacks for use in stews or pirogies later on. With the saffron milk caps, we eat as many as we can before we get sick of them, or we bottle them up for a nice addition to a salad or just as a snack with maybe a shot of vodka. Our favourite way to cook them is to flour them and fry quickly in oil, they don't taste strongly of mushroom and have a crunchy texture. We have been known to have nothing else for dinner except saffron milk caps.

A couple of years ago, we had only one chance in the season to look for them, as we were pretty busy with other things. So we drove to our spots for a look. Our daughter M was with us, she was three and a real handful at the time. Looking around and chasing after M, we didn't find much, so we decided to go to one last spot. On the way M fell asleep, we turned off the main road and there before us was a green patch of grass that had been recently mown. It was completely covered with saffron milk caps, none was bigger than 7 cm (3") in diameter, the perfect size for eating. We filled a fruit box with them and just as we were finishing, some mushroomers came from the other direction. These mushrooms were meant just for us.

Now for the warning. Never pick and eat mushrooms you don't know and recognize. The death cap (amanita phalloides) looks a lot like a field mushroom and didn't get its name for nothing. We commonly call poisonous species toadstools, from the German todesstuhl, meaning death's stool, and there is no rule of thumb for differentiating between mushrooms and toadstools. Even for experts identification can be tricky. Some friends of ours picked a mushroom on their farm and brought it to me for identification. After a search I managed to find the genus but not the species, so I took it to a mycologist at the Royal Botanic Gardens and he narrowed it down to two types, one was poisonous, the other edible. The only way to tell the difference was to leave the mushroom on some paper and inspect the resulting spore that fell out, if it was yellow it was poisonous, if it was white we could eat it. I threw it away.
 
  posted at 11:14 am
  3 comments



3 Comments:
At 8:06 am, Blogger Reb said...

Very evocative description of cooking the SMC's fresh. I remember the best mushies I ever had were in the Chianti region at little farmhouse resto - fresh picked porcini, simply sliced, breaded and fried. Deeeeeee-vine! Lucky you for having such nice mushies to eat!

 
At 6:41 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi Reb, I would trade places with you any day! Fortunately I know where to buy frozen fresh porcini here, not quite as good, but still very tasty, and there is always the mysterious letters my wife gets from Poland with something dried inside ;-)

 
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