It's raining in Sydney, lots. My peasant knowledge tells me that it will be going for the full moon.
Much of it falls on the coast, but the spread of the clouds bring also the rain further afield.
This is good news for people like me that wait the whole year for that special time when the temperature falls low enough and the rain falls high enough to get to wake up the amazing underground network that is mycelium. And that means MUSHROOMS!
Indeed the flowering bodies of those special organisms (so special they are not plants nor animals, they are their own thing) come out anytime of the year, in different places, in different forms. But if you like me wait for the incredible bonanza that are edible pine mushrooms then this is the time you are waiting for.
So, what that means is: YAY. it's raining, lots, that means the yummy slippery jacks and saffron milkcaps and a host of other treats are about to fill the floor of the pine plantations around Sydney.
It is still early, so don'trush to get your basket sorted, but I would get ready anyway.
I run mushroom foraging workshops so I get asked lots of questions about the activity. Here's a FAQ about Edible pine mushrooms in State Forests:
Are there any mushrooms yet?
Maybe, check your local spot. It is raining a lot in Sydney, but as soon as you move away from the coastal watershed the rain is not that much. It is also still a little warm (warmer than usual) so yes, there might be something out there but is still early days.
Can I do it myself?
Sure, go ahead, if you know what you're doing. But if you never collected pine mushrooms before I (and everyone else for that matter) strongly suggest you go first out with some one who knows what they're doing. Even just once, so that you can see how to interact with the resources and the space, how to look after the ecology of the place and how to tell apart from what you want in your basket and what not.
Is it allowed?
It is permitted to collect mushrooms in State forests pine plantations, as long as you do not disturb the trees and you stick to pine mushrooms and do not also get bush rocks or logs. Very important is to check for forests closures, as sometimes they get logged, and for safety reason they get closed to the public. Finally, respect road rules, as in no speeding, you need a registered vehicle to go around and obey the signage. Some forest allow for camping, others not. Check the list of State Forests in NSW and possibilities here.
How long does the season go for?
Depends, sometimes 4 months, sometimes 3 weeks.
In Sydney last year there was an early show in February due to lots of January rain and a drop in temperature, but then it went dry, and the season was pretty bad after that. The year before there wasa very short season in May, but so much mushrooms as I never seen before, everywhere. And so forth. It depends, it changes. It's wild stuff folks. It does what it wants.
How can I get on your workshops?
Join the waiting list here. This year I changed the way we're going to do it. There will be smaller parties going out, some self driving, others with transport. The main point is that this year I set up a system much more flexible in terms of dates. I understand you want to plan ahead 3 months in advance for your weekends, but that is not how it works with nature. One of the forst lesson you learn about foraging for wild food is that you take advantage of the harvest when the produce is available.
By joining the waiting list you will then be the first to know when I will take people out, and I'll let you know of workshops with 7-10 days notice. I understand thai might not works for everyone, but that is the best I can do to guarantee a harvest.
What if I go to the forest and find nothing?
Welcome to my life. The life of a forager. You cannot expect anything, you just go and check, and if lucky you come back with something. If very lucky you get a good harvest. In terms of my workshop I will try my best to foresee harvest, but that is no guarantee, unless you want me to set up workshops with one day notice that is.. :)
Just to give you an idea, in 7 years of running mushroom picking workshops open to the public it only ever happened once that we didn't find much, last year. That was very embarrassing for me so this year I changed the system for the bookings, in order for that to never happen again, hopefully.
Look at it this way.
The first thing that you need to enjoy as a land steward is to look at land. Expect nothing back but the pleasure to go out to your special spots to see how things are going. As a farmer you do that a lot. You go out and check on the crops, see what's happening, check the state of the soil, feel the temperature of the fields, assess the humidity of the ground. You look and learn. Pay communion to the other species and the overall ecology. Every now and then nature gift you with something.
I tend to say thank you forest.