April

A MUSHROOM FORAGE WITH DIEGO BONETTO + STUDIO NEON

The Slowpoke: A MUSHROOM FORAGE WITH DIEGO BONETTO + STUDIO NEON

There’s a whole lot of magic to be found while wandering through a local pine forest – from the crunchy brown needles and pine cones strewn across the forest floor, the dappled light that dances through the slightly gnarled straight and narrow trees and the peace and quiet that pervades the infinite space. 

This time of year there is an extra promise to be found among the pines – edible wild mushrooms. With the rain and cold months, saffron milk caps and slippery jacks burst from the ground across the forest floor. In the search for them, akin to an easter egg hunt for adults, there is an insurmountable amount of joy in scraping aside a pile of pine needles to find a healthy palm-sized mushroom ready and waiting to make its way into your basket. A forest-provided freebie.

It’s this search that we find ourselves doing on a tour by Diego Bonetto (did you catch our interview yesterday?) in collaboration with Aaron Teece and Richard Robinson from Studio Neon. This small super crew is ensuring all senses are satisfied with their foraging and feasting tours. As an avid forager, Diego eagerly awaits the autumnal months each year, during which he runs his now very popular mushroom foraging tours. He has a great depth of knowledge to share on the subject and each season takes on those keen to soak up those skills. Meanwhile, with wild mushrooms (along with many other foraged delicacies) regularly making their way onto plates at Studio Neon, they are just the guys for the job of taking them from forest floor to feast.

It’s been a slow start to the season this year, having waited a good while for the rain to bring the first flush of mushrooms. It’s in mid-April that we venture out on an early morning trip from Redfern in Sydney’s city, heading two hours south to Penrose and Belanglo State Forests.

The morning in the forest is as glorious as they come, with crisp air sitting still among the sunshine, while Diego takes today’s small group wandering through various pockets of pines. The fairy-tale-like white spotted red mushrooms – fly agaric or amanita muscaria – can be spotted very easily across the ground. Though not edible they are a beacon for what we’re looking for – saffron milk caps (pine mushrooms) and slippery jacks – as they grow in the same areas.

With various spots scoured and baskets slowly filling with mushrooms we stop for lunch in the open campground of Daly’s Clearing. Having spent the morning foraging the surrounds too, Aaron and Richard have a campfire roaring and their pine mushroom bounty sizzling away with garlic, spices and a host of other seasonal produce. It’s what these guys do best, creating memorable meals of all things simple, foraged and seasonal. Served up with fresh bread as the campfire continues to crackle away it’s one of those gloriously simple meals that is hard to beat.

Heading home with a belly full of mushrooms, a mind full of fresh knowledge and that wonderful smell of campfire permeating everything, a new perspective comes with it. One where the forest is seen in a new light, where its floor suddenly becomes the all, and where rainy days take on a whole new meaning of what might just be waiting in the forest as it clears.

Diego and the Studio Neon boys have more of their foraging and feasting tours coming up this season – to find dates, get more info or to sign up, head to www.diegobonetto.com/shop.

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