They have the stink of Pan about them: picking Saffron Milkcap Mushrooms for the kitchen

Saffron Milkcaps

I get very excited about pine trees in rainy weather.  I have come full circle because for many years I hated pinetrees.  I had a job ringbarking pinetrees for the Eltham council.  I loved that job and I hated pinetrees.  Pinetrees are useless environmental weeds right?  Anyway, it’s not the pinetrees themselves that excite me, it’s what grows on them when it rains.

As a boy in Daylesford, I followed my neighbours Anna and Tony Chomontosky into the pine groves around Daylesford lake, with their entourage of pigs and goats.  They would collect various mushrooms, but the favourite was always the Saffron Milkcap (Lactarius deliciosus).


They told me stories about my Vikings ancestors, the Berserkers, who used another common pine tree mushroom, the Fly Agaric, (Amanita muscaria,) to produce a psychedelic battle tonic.     Too toxic to ingest in its pure form, they fed it to their reindeers and drank their urine.  Half naked and tripping, they horrified their enemies with their blazing eyes and butchery.


do not eat this

Not jaded by these scandalous tales about my lineage, I collected bags of Saffron Milkcaps for Anna and Tony when I chanced upon them, however I refused to eat them. I must confess I felt more enthused about a Golden Gaytime or a Violet Crumble.

Safron Milkcap

Now that my palette has been dulled, I find these mushrooms most delicious and I must recommend them most urgently.  The Saffron Milkcap grows under mature pine trees, rising magnificently from the needles, with blotchy concentric rings on the cap, sometimes curving beautifully into a love heart.  Maybe you could hunt around and find one for your love on February 14 if there is early rain.  The flesh bleeds orange milk when cut, the orange gills stain green when bruised, resembling mould.  Try not to think about that.


If you are not confident with finding your own mushrooms, they are available in season at St Andrews Market, or the organic vegetable section at Vic Market.

Wild Saffron Milkcaps have a deeper, darker, woodsy flavour than mushrooms gathered at Safeway or Coles New World.  They are bold and versatile and dynamic in the kitchen.  You can stuff them and bake them, use them in sauces.  Perhaps wild mushrooms should be left to speak for themselves; sizzling away in butter and breadcrumbs. They have the stink of Pan about them.  Do not under any circumstances fall asleep inside a ring of mushrooms.  Make no bargains with the little people, do not trust them.


A Simple Recipe

Dip slices of Safron Milkcap in beaten egg, roll in breadcrumbs, fry in butter and onion.  This can be served as a side dish or appertiser.

Pasta sauce:  Brown garlic with fried mushrooms in butter or olive  oil, thyme,  add white wine or orange juice, lower heat and simmer.  Pour over pasta.



One Response to “They have the stink of Pan about them: picking Saffron Milkcap Mushrooms for the kitchen”

  1. I never knew you were a gourmet, young Eric.

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