Mushrooming, Mornington Peninsula

We went for a spot of autumnal mushrooming on the Mornington Peninsula a couple of weekends ago. Merricks General Store, near Red Hill, runs group mushrooming trips throughout May, when the Slippery Jack and Saffron Milk Caps are in season. You meet at the store and get led out by a local chef and mushroomer to find fungi, then end up back at the store to try your spoils - a spot of mushroom soup, frittata, ragu and a glass of pinot. All in all, not a bad way to spend a morning in the country.

The chef from Merricks doles out hunter-gatherer wisdom en route, as you scour under pine needles and through grasses, traipse down country lanes and roadsides, searching for shrooms. There was lots of helpful advice about what to pick and not to pick, and how to pick them. Seeing as, you know, you can die (or have a great party) by eating the wrong mushroom, it seems like a quite a helpful skill to have in one's repertoire.

The cool thing about these mushrooms is that they grown on the peninsula each year in abundance, but only for six to eight weeks. No-one is able to cultivate them, so this is nature's own a once-a-year delight.

What you need
You will need a bucket or bag, a small knife for cutting off the mushroom from the stem (don't pull them out by the stem and put dirt in your bag), and a pastry/paint brush for sweeping off dirt (it is preferable not to wash them, since you will lose flavour, so try to keep them clean as you go).

Finding them
The mushrooms are found in many locations on the peninsula, including down at Dromana, Merricks and Red Hill. Drive around the Red Hill Road area as a start, or down any road lined with tall pines, and keep your eyes peeled.

Often you can spot a bunch on the roadside, and once you see some there are bound to be more nearby. Slippery Jacks often grow under trees, where they are protected from sunlight, and can be easier to spot as they tend to grown in large clumps on top of each other.

Saffron Milk Caps are a type of pine mushroom and grow usually as singles. Sometimes you will need to push pine needles aside to find the mushrooms, which can grow under the blanket. They have an orange colour making them a little easier to see.

Failing spotting them, in mushroom season you will see cars parked on the more bountiful roadsides, so just follow the crowd.

What to pick
To be safe, just go for what you know. A Saffron Milk Cap is a very obvious mushroom since it has an inky saffron colour that will come off on your hands and knife upon touching it. They have a light orange-brown top, and a veined underside.

Below: Saffron Milk Cap cross section

Once someone points out a Slippery Jack to you they are hard to confuse with any other mushroom. Topped with a classic mushroom-coloured head that is very slimy, they will have dirt and needles stuck on top of them. They grow in clumps or as singles. They can grow quite large and have a sponge-like underside.

Below: In the picture below we are peeling back the sponge section of a Slippery Jack, which some people do so as to just eat the flesh beneath the sponge (this isn't necessary, however).

A few warnings & tips
  • Heavy rain can ruin mushrooms, as they soak up the water and lose their flavour, so get in there before a storm
  • Look for mushrooms that are fresh and perky looking, not dry around the edges or hollow in the stem
  • White mushrooms - don't bother, you want a little colour in these two types discussed above
  • Go for ones that are palm-sized or smaller; larger = less flavour
  • Don't worry about a few spots, dirt, etc, just cut it off the mushroom

Above: Bag full of Slippery Jacks and Saffron Milk Caps


  1. those saffron milk caps are divine. lucky youse to go mushrooming!!




Anna Metcalfe is a content maker, word writer and editor of things.