It’s difficult to find ethically and organically sourced food in the world we live in today.
Those of us who live on or below the breadline can’t care less whether our maize and beef is mass-produced in Brazil or locally farmed on Buffelsfontein. The harsh truths is that it’s about getting food on the table, at the cheapest cost possible. This goes for meat, maize and everything else.
This is typically my blanket theory for all ethical, organic and locally produced food. That was until I went foraging for mushrooms.
Look, I know mushrooms won’t feed the African continent, but these fungal foods tick all the boxes when it comes to ethical, local, organic food. They’re also very sustainable as they’re basically pests, parasitising off living and/or dead matter.
Plus, if you know your business, they’re completely free… The mushrooms grow wherever conditions are favourable. That’s why you can see them sprouting up on your lawn, in the garden and the forests where you do your morning jog.
But wait! Whatever you do… don’t go eating these mushrooms left, right and centre. You need an expert to tell you which ones are safe for consumption first.* And that’s exactly what I did…
Going out at Delheim Wine Estate at the start of winter felt like a real Karoo hunt morning. It was cold, and small puffs of mist appeared when we spoke to greet to fellow fungi hunters. We drank sherry to warm our insides, and we were briefed on the safety precautions and risks involved in the practice.
Then, armed with our mushroom cleaning knives and Red Riding Hood baskets, we shot out into the woods. The fungi were abundant, but you had to train your eye to see them hidden behind the fallen twigs and underneath dead branches.
As soon as we started seeing them, we got trigger happy – picking as many pine rings as our basket could hold. And still, they were abundant enough for everyone else to do the same.
After a morning out, our hands black and orange from all the soil and mushroom ‘blood’ (pine rings release a bright orange fluid that can stain your fingers), we flopped down in the Delheim restaurant to taste our winnings – like all hunters do.
The rewards were sweet, and savoury and creamy. And they paired well with the Delheim wines after the morning’s toil in the forest. If you’re thinking of going vegan hunting this winter… I hear even greater emphasis will be placed on the mushroom-inspired lunch which follows the ‘hunting’ expedition in the forest. Yum!
The preparation of the freshly harvested produce into a lip-smacking three-course meal is kept simple by Chef Bruce von Pressentin. And it makes it feel extra good to eat food harvested in the most ethical, free-range, organic and sustainable way possible…
Being educated about the edible mushrooms in the Western Cape is like a never-ending gift. Now, whenever I’m out running on Lion’s Head or in the Newlands forests, there’s always the possibility of taking home some free dinner.
Unsurprisingly, this foodie excursion was recently ‘Highly Commended’ in the Best Wine Event category in the Drinks International Wine Tourism Challenge 2017.
*Want to forage for your own mushroom? Here’s how:
Foraging on Delheim
DATE: Select dates in during winter, June & July
WHERE: Delheim Estate, on the Knorhoek Road, off the R44
IMPORTANT: Participants are limited to 40 people per day, which allows Delheim to maintain the delicate balance between sharing a family passion and protecting the environment where the mushrooms appear.
ALSO NOTE: The appearance of wild mushrooms depends completely on natural phenomena that are impossible to forecast with absolute accuracy, particularly after long periods of drought. Although the Delheim events take place during the high season for wild mushrooms, the estate cannot guarantee the appearance of mushrooms on the day.
Foraging with The Mushroom Guru
The Mushroom Guru Gary Goldman, who host the Delheim Forages along with Delheim’s Nora Sperling-Thiel, also hosts independent mushroom walks and educational classes in and around Cape Town during the mushroom season.
He guarantees freshly foraged mushrooms for breakfast on one of his most popular classes – a morning walk through the forests of the Southern Suburbs in Cape Town. You can get in contact with him here.
If you stumble across a mushroom you’d like to have identified, Gary will gladly do so. You can also visit his website for a details guide to the fungi found in SA’s forests.
If you’d like to grow your own mushrooms, you can also take part in a log workshop with Gary.
*This article was originally written for and published by News24 Traveller24. View it here.