Saturday, April 27, 2013

Foraging for Pine Mushrooms and Slippery Jacks, Wingello

It was an awesome autumn day in Sydney today. The sky was blue, the sun was shining brightly and the temperature was perfect at 27C with very low humidity. To me, that is a perfect autumn day and one of the many reasons why autumn is my favourite season. It was too good a day to be stuck indoors. Luckily we had booked to join Jill Dyson from FoodPath Culinary Tours on a mushroom foraging tour in Wingello. The drive down to the Southern Highlands was smooth and easy; compared to the previous Saturday when it was raining cats and dogs. 

Autumn is the best season to forage for pine mushrooms which grow below pine trees. They are also known as milky saffron because when cut, they discharge a milky orange sap. The pine mushrooms are identified by the vibrant saffron coloured cap, gills and stems. They are quite 'meaty' and have a nutty flavour. Best way to cook them is to saute the pine mushrooms with garlic in butter, throw in some chopped parsley and rosemary and serve on crusty toasted sourdough topped with a sunny side egg (with runny yolk).

Jill took some time to explain how to identify the pine mushrooms and slippery jacks; how to remove them and to avoid poisonous mushrooms. The key difference between the two besides the taste is the pine mushrooms have gills and the slippery jacks have a spongy base under the cap. When foraging for mushrooms, we had to be careful and check with Jill before we cut the mushrooms. There were some poisonous mushrooms around. These poisonous mushrooms had a beautiful red colour with spots on the top. Poisonous mushrooms usually have a white base. There was a case in Canberra last year where a Chinese chef and friend died after eating the Death Cap mushrooms which the chef mistook for Chinese straw mushrooms.
Poisonous Mushrooms
The mushrooms were just growing on the side of a country road under the pine trees. Jill had done some scouting earlier in the week to find where the mushrooms are. Armed with gloves, a small knife and a bucket, we set off walking up the country road looking for these amazing mushrooms. Everyone in the group was very excited when we spotted the first pine mushrooms.
Jill holding a pine mushroom (see saffron coloured ring at the base) 
Pine Mushrooms with distinguishable round rings
We moved on further up the road to look for the slippery jacks which grows in clumps.

There were more slippery jacks than pine mushrooms. We also helped Jill fill her two buckets as she was collecting them for the chef at Mount Ashby Winery in Bowral.

Along the way we saw a large wombat burrow which explained the amount of fresh wombat poo around. We were careful to avoid stepping on them.
Wombat's burrow 
Australian Native Banksia 
Pine cones
After an hour and half, we had a bucketful of pine mushrooms and slippery jacks.

Heading back to our cars
Thank you Jill for a wonderful experience. We had another fun adventure with you.

Note: People die every year from eating the wrong mushrooms, NEVER eat a mushroom that you are not sure and have not been able to positively identify.


  1. That wombat abode added a special touch to the magic of harvesting mushrooms. Yes, I cannot fully believe the wonder of this warm weather spell that we are still having. It is still boardshorts and singlet at lunchtime in the Gong.

  2. I'd really love to do this would be fun. It's amazes me how many people post a picture of a mushroom on twitter and ask if it's safe to eat. I think if you've got to us 1000 strangers if a 'shroom is safe to consume you'd best leave it the forest.

  3. Charmaine thanks so much for your blog about our mushroom foraging last weekend. The chef at Mt Ashby cooked fettucine with chestnut and forest mushrooms yesterday, both collected on this tour, for a group of International Travel Writers we had on a FoodPath tour. It is fun - we love it. Look forward to having you along again one of these days :)

  4. What a great idea for a tour! I recently collected pine cones too, looking forward to turning them into some decorations for Christmas this year.

  5. The mushrooms look so delish! Mum used to pick up these ones but I am really interested to learn how to identify them :D

  6. Oh how fun! I have always wanted to forage for wild mushrooms but would never do it without a knowledgeable guide. Will have to look up this tour next time we're back in Oz :)