Mushroom season is upon us. And one of the best types is in paddocks right now.
Horse mushrooms (Agaricus arvensis) are the biggest of the local mushroom varieties – they can be 15cm or more across the cap – and they have a deliciously rich flavour with a hint of aniseed.
Last year we didn’t get mushrooms until the middle of May but with all the rain, they started in early April.
A few come up each year in a patch not far from our house, and each one is just about a meal in itself.
We keep a close eye on them as they mature, and harvest them once they’re fully open. If the weather is cold, this can take several days.
Make sure you identify mushrooms properly. Horse mushrooms have very clean, white upper surfaces, darkening with age, and gills that start out pink, maturing to dark brown.
Carefully rinse any dirt off the mushrooms once you’ve picked them, pat dry with a paper towel and leave in the fridge for several hours to dry before using.
Mr Riddell is so fond of fungi he has tried to garden them. He carefully dug out a sod of earth from under where the horse mushrooms were growing and transplanted it into the lawn nearer our house. The white threads of the underground mushroom plant (mycelium) were visible in the soil. He popped a dry cow pat in the bottom of the hole to give the mushroom plant something to feed on and crumbled up another one, mixed with soil, and spread that over the top. Three weeks later a mushroom appeared, although it got pecked to bits by some animal. Pukekos – we are looking at you!
The mushroom wrangler now goes for a walk most mornings and has his eye on developing mushrooms. He reckons they don’t like cultivation, so look for them in areas that haven’t been cropped and regrassed in recent years.
If you can’t find any in your backyard or paddocks, supermarkets, of course, stock those big broad mushrooms which will make a good substitute if you haven’t got any wild ones. Vary the following amounts according to personal taste and the quantity of mushrooms you have. Basically you’re making a savoury topping and you alter the recipe as you wish, adding bacon or any other ingredients.
GRILLED SPICY MUSHROOMS WITH TOMATO
5 cloves garlic
1 small red chilli, seeds removed
2 big tomatoes
Black pepper, salt
1 tsp honey
- Preheat oven to 180 C
- Cut off the stalk as close as possible to the cap. This can be chopped up and added to the dish.
Finely chop the garlic and chilli. Fry gently in a little olive oil.
- Chop onion finely and add to the garlic; fry all together.
Add finely chopped tomatoes and season. Add parsley.
- Stir in the honey and cook for about 10 minutes or until reduced.
Put some oil in a dish and dredge mushrooms in this, spooning it on and turning them over in the oil.
- Place in a baking tray and cook for about five minutes. Remove from oven and generously spoon mixture all over. Top with grated Parmesan.
- Grill quickly for six or seven minutes – but watch like a hawk. Serve immediately.