I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published June 30th 2015
Bush Picnic With A Difference
I don't know about you but I love a good feed of mushrooms and have done since long before I learned that they are highly nutritious and very low in kilojoules. Their consumption is even touted in some circles as significantly lowering the risk of contracting a range of cancers as well as being beneficial to sufferers of diabetes.
In fact mushrooms are fast developing a reputation as a 'super food', so much so that some figures suggest as many as 40% of Australians are eating them three or more times each week.
For the most part Mushrooms are a delicacy but some, like this one, should never end up in your kitchen. Photo: Ian Gill/Footloosephoto
But this story is less about the actual mushroom and more about how you can enjoy a fabulous day out in the country picking mushrooms and culminating in dining on the fruits of your labor cooked up by a top young chef in a great little regional restaurant.
There really is only one rule to follow when picking mushrooms and that is to be absolutely certain that you pick only those that you know won't kill you!
That's why Brooke and Mark Renaud, owners of the restaurant Olive Jones of Macedon, run their winter mushroom rambles under the very watchful eye of local expert Richard Ford.
Richard Ford looks like a man who might know a thing or two about mushrooms - just the person you need to ensure you don't pick something which will kill you. Photo: Ian Gill/Footloosephoto
Each Saturday Richard leads enthusiastic groups into the pine forests of the Macedon Ranges in search of a variety of mushrooms including 'pines, 'wood blewits', 'saffron milk-caps' and the much sought after 'slippery jack'.
Richard is always on hand to provide advice on what you should be looking for. Photo: Ian Gill/Footloosephoto
The day begins with a caffeine fix and briefing at the restaurant where Richard explains where you'll go, what you'll be looking for and, perhaps most importantly of all, what varieties of mushroom you don't want to bring back.
Then it's off to one of the pine forests in the Macedon, Mount Macedon, Woodend area where you'll break up into small groups to spend a couple of hours foraging for those tasty treats.
The pine forests of the Macedon Ranges are full of fabulous edible mushrooms just like this beauty. Photo: Ian Gill/Footloosephoto
Richard is on hand throughout to point you in the right direction, offer advice and inspect the harvest, making sure you've only picked edible varieties.
Then it's back to Macedon where chef Mark will talk about and demonstrate how to prepare and use mushrooms in a variety of dishes.
Chef Mark Renaud and guide Richard Ford check the harvest before Mark heads off to the kitchen to prepare your lunch. Photo: Ian Gill/Footloosephoto
He'll then disappear into the kitchen to prepare a mouth-watering, 2-course lunch using the mushrooms you've picked and served with a glass of local wine.
At the end of the day you'll go home armed with recipes & tips and hopefully some mushrooms to practice on.
All that for just $50 per person makes an Olive Jones Of Macedon Mushroom Ramble a fun, educational and great value-for-money day out.
The day starts around 10 AM and Mark aims to serve lunch between 12.30 and 1 PM. Numbers are limited and bookings are essential.
Olive Jones Of Macedon
40 Victoria Street, Macedon
Tel: (03) 5426 3700
Getting There …….
Macedon is 63 Kilometers north of Melbourne, a leisurely 45-minute drive via the Calder Freeway/M79.
Alternatively take a VLine train from Melbourne (Southern Cross) to Macedon in just 60 minutes. The restaurant is an easy 5-minute walk from Macedon Station.
Photo: Ian Gill/Footloosephoto
Mushroom Fact ….A mushroom is not a vegetable and it's not a fruit either. A mushroom is the fleshy body of a fungus and while all mushrooms are fungi not all fungi are mushrooms.