When I was child I was a painfully fussy eater! The list of foods I wouldn’t eat was endless. I pray to God that I will not be cursed with a child like I was someday. Mushrooms were pretty high up on the gag list for me back then, however mushroom hunting was still an outing I relished. Ever since I can remember my mother used to take us out on bleak damp autumn days to search for edible forest mushrooms. She taught us which were dangerous, which were lethal, which weren’t worth bothering about and eventually narrowed down the mushrooms we were allowed to pick for eating to three kinds. They are easily recognisable and to those who enjoy mushrooms a seasonal delight, the taste of which is markedly improved by their scarcity and the adventure of the hunt!
Thanks be given to the gods, I now LOVE mushrooms and almost all the things on the list I wouldn’t eat as a child. Mushroom hunting has also become somewhat of a passion as the mystic and excitement of the season, the timing, the searching, the finding and the final cooking and eating takes us back to some primal sense of purpose. It is a truly exhilarating experience for me.
I say all of this with a hint of sadness and promise as I have been on two unsuccessful hunts this autumn already. I am putting it down to not enough rain this season but keep waiting and searching. I have a pine ring and porcini risotto which is waiting to be made!
Oh yes – the three kinds of mushrooms I search for are: Porcini; Pine-rings and Shaggy ink caps.
Porcini (Cep or Bletus Edulis) and Pine-ring (lactarius deliciosus) are found in pine forests (and porcini also around oak trees). They need a lot of rain, a cold spell and then a warm spell. They grow well under a thick layer of pine needles or oak leaves as the case may be. Having grown up in Stellenbsoch I was pretty clued up as to where to look. But this is the first season for me of hunting in the Cape Town area, and I am determined to find the hot spots here too!
The Ink Caps one usually finds growing on lawns. We used to have some which would grow outside our front door under the Bougainvillea every year! My mom found some the other day growing on the side of the road and some on her neighbour’s lawn.
I have pasted some images of porcini and pine rings which I found on the internet. Once I find the suckers in the flesh I will post my own pictures! The Ink cap picture is my own!
If you intend on doing any mushroom hunting, please make sure you buy a book to guide you or go with an experienced picker. There are many poisonous and a few deadly mushrooms!