The first time I came across pine mushrooms was during the time we lived in Melbourne. We did most of our grocery shopping at Prahran market where there is a stall just for mushrooms. Damien Pike Wild Mushroom Specialist is the name and Damien is a mushroom expert. He was kind enough to take his time to explain what they were and in the end, we were convinced to try.
Pine mushroom Lactarius deliciosus –also known as saffron milk cap, orange fly caps or red pine mushroom –is found in Europe and later introduced to other countries like Australia, New Zealand and Chile. They commonly grow under pine trees. They exude a milky orange sap when cut and have vibrant saffron-coloured cap, gills and stem. The texture is firm and they have a full, nutty flavour. In some cases, the colour gets even more vibrant as they cook.
When I lived in Aegean part of Turkey, especially in Bodrum area (photo below), I heard about this wild mushroom called çıntar –the Turkish name for pine mushrooms. The locals have a long tradition of going out and hunting these mushrooms –and some other herbs –when they are in season. They know exactly what to pick as no mushroom poisoning has ever been reported in the area.
In pine fields of Oberon in NSW, migrants from Poland, Italy and Ukraine or other Eastern European ancestry, pick these mushrooms after autumn rainfall. We get ours from Harris Farm but during only certain months as their season is quite short.
A few tips on cooking and preparing:
• If you get large and older pine mushrooms, use them in casseroles or stews as they take longer to cook and slow cooking is the best method for these. If you can get smaller, younger ones, they go nicely with pasta.
• They need to be washed well and stems should be discarded.
• Pine mushrooms are best when sautéed or grilled.