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Medicinal mushrooms of the Dandenong Ranges

It has been a very wet autumn in Melbourne this year. We’ve seen spectacular storm clouds blow through our valley, followed by glorious sunsets. With the rain has come a bumper crop of mushrooms on our hill here in Upwey.

We have been feasting regularly on one particular mushroom, Lactarius deliciosus. These are known to mushroom lovers as saffron milk caps (pictured top), and as their scientific name suggests, they are very tasty.

Saffron milk cap mushrooms are full of antioxidants and I can confirm that they are particularly yummy when fried with garlic, tarragon and a little butter. We’ve eaten them with homemade sourdough bread and a sprinkling of Emmental cheese (pictured), or topping some tagliatelle. I enjoy a turmeric tea on the side which compliments the nutty flavour very well.

Saffron milkcaps on sourdough toast with cheese
Saffron milkcaps on sourdough toast with cheese

When we moved to our hill in the Dandenong Ranges nearly two years ago, our top field was nothing more than dust with the odd weed, rock or dry stalk of grass sticking out. It had been heavily grazed by sheep for years.

With a little ‘rewilding’, protection and nurturing it has rewarded us with native chocolate lilies in the spring and native orchids in the summer. This autumn and winter we have been blessed with wonderful mushrooms.

It has been idyllic picking them fresh, just like I used to with my mother when I was a child. Of course, we did a thorough check on the type of mushroom before eating.

Fly agaric mushroom
Fly agaric mushroom – not for eating

Mushrooms can be poisonous so are not to be experimented with if you are unfamiliar with them. Also on our hill we found some beautiful looking but highly poisonous fly agaric mushrooms (Amanita muscaria, pictured above). These are the well-known red mushrooms with white spots. We left them for the pixies to dance amongst.

From a health perspective, this is a great time of year to be gorging on mushrooms. In normal years we would all be more concerned about flu than coronavirus as autumn turns to winter. Studies have suggested that specific types of mushroom contain compounds that might be effective against viruses including flu.

Mushrooms are also an integral part of the Chinese Herbal Medicine that I prescribe at the Upwey Acupuncture clinic. Many traditional formulae include mushrooms such as reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) and poria (Poria cocos).

If you fancy a winter pick me up, not necessarily involving mushrooms, drop me a line.

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