On Sunday I went to Trentham, a little town in the forest and learned a lot about fungi. I learned about mushroom police and massive parasitic organisms and how to identify things edible and inedible.
Alison Pouliot ran the workshop and field trip. I've been trying to get to one of her workshops for 2 years now.
She showed us well over 50 species of fungi gathered close to Trentham that weekend and I was delighted to see snow fungus - one of Yin's favourite Chinese 'mushrooms'. A beautiful thing, translucent white, frilly and in texture like a firm seaweed.It grows on trees in China - and also in Trentham!
Alison explained that as well as the thousands of (mostly unidentified) Australian fungi there are many introduced species from Europe here that came with the rootstock of the pines and broadleafed European trees.
I know a few edibles - field mushrooms, slippery jacks, morels and my favourites, saffron milkcaps. I can blewits to my edibles now. I learnt a lot about the deadlies and am even more wary than I was before. A good thing really.
I wish we had the volunteer 'mushroom police' or piltzcontrole of Europe here. Sort of the CFA of the fungi world, they sort out the edible from the deadly for people.
Off we went to the cemetery. There we could find a patch of native forest, a patch of introduced exotic trees, pines and some open ground. Lots of different spots for different mushies.
Places with both eucalypts and pines can be tricky for mushroom hunters. The edible orange pine mushroom of Europe, growing by the pine tree, looks very like the poisonous Australian orange mushroom growing by the gum tree. Obviously it's a good idea to include the environment in your checklist of how to be sure you have an edible mushie.
Check your fungi carefully and have a good field guide
If you haven't got a permit to pick, a mirror will help you look at the underside.
Don't just slice your mushrooms off at the stem - cut down under with your blunt knife so you have the base as well - it can be vital to identify your find.
We found blue, lilac, dark purple and scarlet fungi. Fungi in every shade of orange, brown and yellow, transparent parasols, jellylike blobs and what may have been a baby luminous fungi. I really want to see these fungi growing and glowing greenly at night in the Grampians. Next autumn, maybe.
The cemetery was full of these beautiful, deadly fungi, the classic fairy toadstools, many big as dinner plates. As we admired them a man on a tractor drove up and mowed them neatly away.