Foraging for forest fungi

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Mad for mushrooms? You’re not alone. More and more South Australians are heading for the hills on a mission for mushies.

Interest in mushroom foraging is on the rise, according to horticulturist and mushroom guide Kate Grigg. Kate’s been foraging with husband Dean Smith for years, but followers of her Facebook community Mushroom Foragers of South Australia is growing fast and she’s receiving multiple requests every week to help identify the forest fungi people are finding on their foraging jaunts.

“The Facebook page was started in 2013 by Mel Haynes, I joined a few months later. It stayed at 100 followers for ages but this year it’s really gone off – we hit 1000 followers the other day and still getting new followers almost every day.”

A multicolour native mushroom (Xerocormus multicolour)

A multicolour native mushroom (Xerocormus multicolour).

She’s also just started guided foraging walks with more than 30 people joining her recently on two separate walks to learn more about finding and identifying edible mushrooms.

Mushroom season in South Australia (and nationally) is generally March to June but can continue into winter, if there’s good wet autumn rains and warmer nights in winter.

“Last year, we were finding mushrooms from late March to August but sadly this year it’s been a lot dryer. We didn’t see a lot appearing until late April and it seems to have pretty much dried up already,” Kate said.

Kate’s foraging basket with five different edible mushrooms.

Kate’s foraging basket with five different edible mushrooms.

The two most common type of edible mushrooms found in South Australia’s cool hill and forest areas are known as pine mushrooms and porcini.

“The best places are probably around Kuitpo and Mt Crawford but you can also find some other less-common but edible examples on the Plains too,” Kate said.

“Pine mushrooms grow under pine trees – and the more common and popular edible ones are saffron milk caps and slipper jacks. Porcini grows around oaks, such as chestnuts.

But not all mushrooms are edible and Kate warns against picking or eating anything that can’t be 100% identified as edible.

“Mushroom toxins can be extremely nasty… and even lethal. It’s why I joined the Facebook group and why next year I’ll probably start some more formal guided tours, a lot of people were finding mushrooms and had questions about what they were finding. It’s not always easy to identify what should and shouldn’t be eaten… it’s safer to not eat if unsure,” she said.

The cute but poisonous amanita muscaria mushroom

The cute but poisonous amanita muscaria mushroom.

Kate thinks the surge of interest in foraging could stem from popular food shows River Cottage and Gourmet Farmer.

“There’s also some great restaurants in Adelaide who are pretty passionate about using local ingredients as well as native and indigenous ingredients, such as Orana. I think they’ve been a big part of this growth in interest as well.”

Kate’s also sharing her passion for edible weeds and natives via the Facebook group Foraging South Australia.

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