If you go down to the woods today, you’re … likely to come across some foodies enthusiastically picking wild mushrooms! Apart from the sheer pleasure of tramping around the beautiful outdoors in the crisp winter air, there is the gourmet feast that awaits when you go straight home to cook up these delicious morsels.
First things first: there is good reason to be cautious about picking your own mushrooms. While there is only a handful of toxic mushrooms in South Africa, you certainly don’t want to take any chances so we strongly suggest you attend a mushroom identification workshop or join an experienced mushroom foraging group. As a rule of thumb, stay away from any mushrooms with white gills, and don’t pick any mushroom species that you don’t recognise.
If you want to learn how to identify edible wild mushrooms, an excellent starting point is the South African Gourmet Mushroom Academy (http://www.mushroomacademy.com/). Based in Somerset West, these expert mycologists and mushroom specialists offer wild mushroom identification courses around the country as well as online. Websites like The Mushroom Guru (https://www.mushroomguru.co.za/) have useful practical information and photographs to help you identify both edible and poisonous mushrooms.
1. Forests, green belts, parks and farmland are all fertile hunting ground for mushrooms. If you’re foraging on SanParks land, you will need a mushroom foraging permit (available from SanParks conservation offices). If you’re on private land, remember to ask for permission.
2. Make sure you are absolutely certain about the identity of any mushroom species you pick (see ‘Identity Matters’ sidebar). Never, ever pick unidentifiable ’shrooms. Invest in a good field guide and always take it with you. Pine rings are easily identifiable, delicious and plentiful, so they are a great option for beginners.
3. Most mushrooms are specially plentiful when the sun warms things up a bit after a few rainy days – they thrive on the combination of damp and warmth. If you go hunting while it is still very wet and rainy, your mushrooms may have absorbed too much water and be rather tasteless.
4. Take a wicker basket – or a mesh bag – for your fungi finds. This allows the mushrooms to breathe and also helps to spread their spores as you wander around hunting for more. A sharp knife is also handy so you can slice the mushroom off cleanly at the base without damaging it, as is a soft brush so you can dust off dirt before putting the mushroom in your basket.
5. Hunt in a pack! By that we mean join an experienced mushroom foraging group or go with an expert who will teach you how to identify both edible species and their toxic relatives. Experienced mushroom foragers will also be able to help you develop your eye so you know what to look out for. Different mushrooms have different smells, so with experience you should also be able to sniff out these delicious treats.
Don’t wait: the sooner you eat your foraged treasure, the better. Freshly picked mushrooms are absolutely delicious sliced and gently sautéed in butter.
Here are some more magic mushroom recipes that allow you to savour the flavour.
This cold-weather classic captures the pure essence of mushrooms, with their earthy flavours enhanced by a drizzle of truffle oil.
Use 250g of your foraged wild mushrooms instead of shop-bought mixed mushrooms for this Truffled Mushroom Fettuccine that is all kinds of delicious. Truffle oil is the key ingredient that turns a super-simple skillet pasta into a sophisticated supper.
This is a delectable and satisfying one-pot vegetarian dish that celebrates seasonal ingredients.
You can supplement your freshly gathered wild mushrooms with some store-bought dried wild mushrooms for this addictively delicious Wild Mushroom Lasagne with a crunchy parmesan topping.
Explore our Le Creuset Recipes website for more tried-and-tested culinary inspiration. Shop online at www.lecreuset.co.za, where we offer countrywide free delivery, or visit your nearest Le Creuset Boutique Store. Did you like this post? Sign up to our newsletter and we’ll send you more news and promotions!