Earlier this year, my beautiful friend Siera invited me to go on a mushroom hunt with her, her lovely mother, and the equally gorgeous Cielrose. “None of my other friends even like mushrooms~” she wailed at me, so there was nothing else I could do but accept.
Who am I kidding, mushrooms are in my Top 5 favourite foods of all kinds! I’m kind of struggling to think of what my other four favourites would be, but I’ve always had a deep and abiding love of mushrooms. On a good week, I would have at least four different kinds of fresh mushrooms in the fridge and three more mushroom-related flavourings in the pantry. When the Doctor became vegetarian, I was the one who had to teach him to appreciate the wonders of edible fungi. Oh yes. I would enjoy a mushroom hunt very, very much in an inappropriate way.
Since we were complete foraging beginners, we booked ourselves onto a mushroom tour conducted through Moorooduc Estate on the Mornington Peninsula. Unfortunately, the rest of the 2012 tours have been fully booked out, but check out Where’s the Beef’s timely entry on their mushroom adventures for more references.
Moorooduc Estate is about an hour’s drive from Melbourne down the Moorooduc Highway on the Mornington Peninsula.
We arrived there right on time (surprisingly, for us!), and were greeted with cups of coffee, tea and several kinds of slices and cookies.
I was struck with instant jealousy at seeing their custom-built wood fired oven. One day, I will have my own one!
Our guides, Cameron, and “Basket Guy” (I’m so sorry I missed his name completely!), have been mushrooming for nearly 20 years. Cameron started off with a pretty long explanation that most species found in the wild are actually poisonous – from ones that would outright kill you, to ones that only make you wish you were dead. Out of the hundreds of species that can be found, they would only choose to eat 5-6 specific ones. Whether that’s due to mushroom snobbery or personal safety, I’m still not sure!
I had assumed that the tour would be a small group, since we were going to drive to the foraging spots, but there turned out to be nearly 30 of us there. After giving all of us directions, we set off to our first stop.
The rest of the tour basically went like this – when we stopped at a place, Cameron explained how the environment would determine what kinds of mushrooms could be found. What I found really surprising was how there could be pretty much millions of kinds of fungus inoculating an area, but what actually grew was determined by the surrounding trees, type of soil, rainfall, ground cover, so on.
There were mushrooms of all shapes, sizes and edibability. Yes, I made a new word.
A really common one we found was the amanita muscaria, or fairy toadstool, distinguished by the red cap and white spots. Unfortunately, they don’t make you grow bigger like Mario, they just make you rather ill.
Another fascinating fact about poisonous mushrooms is that, no matter how poisonous they are when eaten, you cannot absorb enough poison to affect you just by touching them. I guess if you had an open cut that you vigorously rubbed on a mushroom, some poison might get into your system, but the chemicals that cause bad things to happen to you are best absorbed through your digestive system.
You know that rule of “brightly coloured things are usually poisonous”? Apparently this lovely pale violet mushroom (wood blewit, or clitocybe nuda) is Cameron’s personal favourite for eating.
My ultimate goal for the day (apart from making memories with my friends and blogging about it) was to actually contribute to the group’s goal of getting something to eat! Achievement unlocked!
We wound up spending a couple of hours hunting for shrooms. When we finally arrived back to Moorooduc, we were greeted with glasses of wine, a mushroom bruschetta and cappuccino (and the recipe for it!). We didn’t feel like we had quite enough fun…gi yet, so we also ordered a wood-fired mushroom pizza.
Click through the gallery for extras and detailed shots!
All in all, it was a fantastic day, and I just wish I still had some of that mushroom pizza left over… Or better yet, that I could go hunting all over again! Thanks to Siera and her mum for inviting me, and thanks to Cielrose for the shroom memories!
Disclaimers: Sefie and friends paid for their spots on the Moorooduc Mushroom Tour. This review was unprompted and not sponsored in anyway. Do not use information from this blog entry as your sole information when hunting your own mushrooms. Please consult with a proper expert before consuming anything found in the wild.