I am a natural movement & outdoor enthusiast who is always on the lookout for ways to incorporate physical activity into my life. My perfect day would combine outdoor movement, great food & convivial company.
Published April 14th 2016
Forage for wild food among the heavenly smell of pine trees
Autumn is the season all mushroom-lovers will know well - it is the time when wild food foragers the world over dig out their baskets, maps and knives and visit their secret prime mushroom hunting territory.
Foraging for mushrooms isn't a common traditional pursuit in Australia, but in Europe it is a favourite family pastime, with secret spots kept very secret and foraging skills handed down from generation to generation. There is something very appealing and primal about foraging for food - not only is there free food, but it promotes family bonding and outdoor time, and the peace and quiet of the forest is very meditative.
One of the closest places to Sydney where you can try your hand at mushroom foraging is Belanglo State Forest, which is about 2 hours southwest of central Sydney. The forest is a large pine plantation which hosts 2 types of edible mushrooms: the pine mushroom and slippery jacks. The cardinal rule when mushroom picking is to only eat mushrooms which you are 100% confident as to identification, and if in any doubt at all, leave it alone, as it could be poisonous or give you a terrible stomach ache.
Unidentified mushrooms - don't eat these! If in doubt, leave it alone.
Mushrooms are the fruiting body of the fungus, which itself grows in an underground network amidst the tree roots, which is why fruitful spots will continue to be fruitful year after year. I found that the Google Maps App worked in the forest, so we used it to tag productive spots so that we could find it again next time.
The forest is a large area and in the event that there is logging taking place on the day you go, drive to another part of the forest where there is no logging. Although the roads within the forest are unsealed, our non-4 wheel drive sedan handled it fine.
Even if you don't want to pick mushrooms, the forest is a wonderful, magical place to wander about. Surprisingly, it is very very quiet (perhaps our native birds aren't attracted to pine trees), and if you keep your eyes open you will spot wombat holes and maybe the odd wombat if you are lucky.
What to Bring: Pack a picnic lunch and rug with a thermos of hot chocolate - perfect to replenish after a hard morning of foraging. If you have walkie talkies, bring them along to find the rest of your party if you become separated. For mushroom picking, bring a paring knife, pair of gloves and a basket. If you are concerned about getting lost, give each member of your party a whistle.