I love foraging for wild mushrooms. There’s something exhilarating about finding and positively identifying a mushroom, especially when you come across the ones you know you can take home and get creative with in the kitchen.

The ancient art of mushroom foraging is still practised around the world but sees a much smaller following here in South Africa, which is sad because in Cape Town in particular we have a number of delectable species prime for eating. Since I began foraging, I’ve met with many raised eyebrows, but I find it is usually a lack of knowledge that leads to doubt. Yes, there are a few mushroom species here that could lead to a nasty demise, but not nearly as many as there are edible ones. It’s all about positive identification and caution.

Delheim Estate near Stellenbosch is home to a private pine forest laden with a variety of mushrooms, and its owners are awesome enough to share it with you for guided mushroom hunts with local mushroom guru Gary Goldman. Although I have been foraging for just over two years, I still had much to learn before attending the workshop and forage with Gary. I now know quite a bit more, especially insider knowledge that can only be learned from years of experience.

delheim porcini
The innocent porcini (‘little pig’ in Italian)

Gary took us through the many different of types of mushrooms found locally, with samples passed around in the workshop. They were broken down into edible, poisonous/inedible, and medicinal. I found the medicinal part the most interesting as we learned that several Capetonians claim to have been cured of breast cancer thanks to the cancer-busting properties of a specific bracket mushroom found in our forests. We also learned that mushrooms are the only known source other than cod liver oil to contain vitamin D in edible form.

And then it was time to go into the forest. The weather patterns of 2015 haven’t been playing ball just yet but the rain we experienced during our forage is going to be the seasonal pattern mushroom hunters have been waiting for. Each armed with a basket, we found numerous species in the forest – but not nearly as many as what will be popping up in the coming weeks. Prized porcini mushrooms, tasty pine rings and brown oyster mushrooms were our main finds, as were poisonous panther caps and fly agarics.

delheim fly agaric
Fly agaric

delheim mushroom forage 2

delheim pine forest

A steady downpour encouraged us to retreat inside and make a bee-line for the fireplace inside the Delheim restaurant, where we dried out and tucked into a mushroom-themed lunch prepared by estate chefs.

Our meal was an affair comprehensively inspired by fungi. Starters included a magnificent wild mushroom soup served with moreish home-made bread paired with Delheim’s Family Chenin. Two side salads were served alongside mains,  one a shimeji and paw paw chilli salad with olive oil and lemon dressing, the other a shitake salad of home-grown Delheim oranges, baby spinach and basil with orange, mustard and ginger dressing.

delheim mushroom soup

Mains was a choice between a porcini and shitake risotto served with beetroot, walnuts and feta, or a cream of mushroom tagliatelle. I went with the risotto, naturally. Paired with a glass of Delheim’s Sauvignon Blanc it went down a treat after bundu-bashing in the forest, as did the coffee served with pecan nut truffles to cap off a great day.

delheim mushroom risotto

Where Delheim Wine Estate, Knorhoek Road, Stellenbosch
When The next forages are taking place on Saturday 3 July and Sunday 4 July 2015 at 10 am
Cost R595 (includes an exclusive mushroom foraging basket or a bottle of Delheim wine and two glasses to take home)
Contact +27 21 888 4600, [email protected], www.delheim.com

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