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I am very lucky to live next door to a farm and an orchard. I am even luckier that my farmer neighbours Graeme and Eileen Thawley can arrive at my door with bounty from the land. It could be grapes, quince, feijoas, figs or cherries; apples of course and, three times in the last few weeks, mushrooms. Delicious field mushrooms fresh from the paddocks.

On each occasion I chopped them straight into the pan with a little extra virgin olive oil and then on to a piece of Vogel's toast that absorbed some of the delicious juice. I have to confess the rest of the delicious liquor I poured into a small cup and supped. There is nothing quite like the wild varieties for taste and flavour.

<a href="" title="Dried Mushrooms"><strong>Dried Mushrooms</strong></a> are everywhere at the moment, I cannot remember quite such a season. Under trees, on the lawn: edible ones, poisonous ones and some of uncertain provenance. I approach them timidly and undoubtedly miss a number of taste treats through my hesitation.

An excellent way to sample the unusual in the world of fungi is to become familiar with what is happening with the business Neudorf Mushrooms. I like to keep a supply of their dried wild mushrooms in my pantry at all times.

Hannes and Therese Krummenacher live on a hilltop along Neudorf Rd in Upper Moutere and on their land they nurture wild mushrooms, mostly under their pine trees but also under birch trees as well.

Their pine bolete, larch bolete, slippery jack and birch bolete form the mixture that they sell as "dried wild mushrooms". Therese says it is best to eat them after they have been dehydrated as the flavours are so intensified. Boletes, by the way, are quite different from regular mushrooms as they do not have gills but pores.

They also are mycorrhizal partners with trees, meaning they are in a symbiotic relationship.

Possibly the most famous bolete in the culinary world is the porcini which is very common in Italy and can mostly only be procured here in its dried form, locally from Prego Mediterranean Foods. Porcini do, however, grow in the Canterbury region and can be found at this time of year.

They grow with a range of different trees such as pine, spruce, fir and oak. I am deeply jealous to report that good friends found a whole heap of them in Hanmer a few weeks back and I have been regaled with the delicious culinary outcome that I was not there to share!

Neudorf Mushrooms also sell a very fine mushroom specimen called saffron milk cap. If you haven't tried these before, make the most of this time of the year when they are freshly available from them at the Wednesday Farmers' Market in Nelson.

They are a really different experience for mushroom lovers, partly because of their yellow colour but also their texture.

They hold their shape when they are cooked and turn a marvellous orange and the stalk bleeds a saffron colour when cut. Hannes and Therese say they should always be sauteed in a little butter or extra virgin olive oil before being added to dishes, to bring out the subtle flavour.

When Hannes brought me the saffron milk caps for the photo shoot he lamented that New Zealanders do not make the most of the amazing amount of fungi out there for us to forage and eat. It is true, of course, but unlike Europe, where pharmacists are trained to identify for customers the difference between a dangerous fungus and a delicious one, we have to rely on our often limited knowledge to make the decisions.
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