A few weekends ago, I planned to do nothing. Nothing, except for relax at home, sleep, and do yoga teacher training homework. But as things go, I ended up going mushroom foraging in Pretoria.
Since this isn’t the kind of thing that people do every day, I thought I’d tell you all about it, even if this awesome early morning mission progressed to drinking a lot of beer and champagne afterwards, and a two day hangover.
How to Go Mushroom Foraging in Pretoria
While drinking some Friar’s Habit beers with my friends Chris and Jess at their house over the spruit from me last week Friday night, they told me they were going hunting for mushrooms in Centurion the next morning, and invited me to join them.
And unfortunately, like so often happens when you know you need to wake up at dawn for something fun, like an international flight, my body woke up way earlier than that.
So I was a bit tired when they arrived to fetch me on the dot at 6:30, but the early adventure out into Centurion was totally worth it. Especially when we found the first batch of mushrooms under a group of trees in the Bishop Bird Nature Area in Weirda Park.
I’d never even heard of the place before but I have to say it was a really enjoyable experience waking up before the heat of the day and walking around in a natural area, especially one that feels a bit off the beaten path (at least to me).
Look closely under all the trees
I’ve read about a lot of people foraging for fynbos and sea vegetables in places like Cape Town, but you don’t often read about people going mushroom foraging in Pretoria.
However, if it’s like many things in the city, I feel like it’s probably one of the things many people do every season but just don’t really broadcast to everyone, which is fair enough.
But I do think that going on these kinds of adventures are important, because they help you to appreciate the natural areas around you, and remind us that we’re not the only living things on this planet.
To get back to the foraging, apparently, after it rains, there is usually a fungus explosion, as the fruiting bodies of these plants push up from the ground basically overnight to make the most of the moisture, and then they’re gone.
Judging from the big mushrooms we found under a big clump of trees though, some of them do stick around for a while, even if they do dry out.
We saw some that that were as big as a face, and some that looked a bit like coral. It might have been the effects of being out in nature for an hour or two, but I started to think about how at some point in the evolutionary scale, there may have been a fork in the road for a certain life form.
One chose to be fungus on land, and one chose to stay in the sea and be coral (or something like that).
Sidenote: the stick we found the coral-looking ones on would have made a really cool wizard’s staff.
Engage with all the other people around you
While we were looking under the first batch of trees we came across a mother and her children, and another child she was looking after, who were out in the park learning about birds for one of their home schooling assignments.
This was apparently a very good place for that, with the reserve specifically dedicated to conserving birds like the southern red bishop.
Honestly, I didn’t grow up with many homeschooled people around me. However, I realise that it’s becoming a more common thing these days, so it was fascinating to hear more about how they’re learning about the natural world in such a dedicated way.
I was lucky enough to be exposed to similar kinds of outdoor activities as a Brownie, and growing up with older brothers who were Springbok scouts, but come to think of it, no one ever took me to a nature reserve to take a look at fungus.
Until now, of course, when I had the fortunate opportunity to go on this mission with two other people who are very interested in mushrooms from a health standpoint. Something I’m also interested in finding out more about, especially when it comes to local varieties and making tinctures out of them.
Go for beers afterwards at Capital Craft
Being with Chris and Jess for the second time in 24 hours meant that when the mission ended, there would be more beer, (two pints in fact), which was amazing. Especially when combined with the delicious rainbow falafel bowl that you can get at both Capital Craft Menlo Park and Capital Craft Centurion.
I always appreciate every opportunity I get to drink a pint of Friar’s Habit, especially the stout, which has a delicious chocolatey flavour. (A taste I definitely developed by drinking several pints of Guinness in Dublin many years ago).
This may have derailed the rest of my day, especially when I got home and realised that doing the yoga homework I planned to do just wasn’t going to happen.
But, even though I might have spent the rest of the day drinking other kinds of beer, half a bottle of Cinzano prosecco, and watching New Zealand get beaten at Hogshead (and then going to Lucky’s), the effect of the outdoor mission wasn’t lost on me. Even if it took me two days to recover from what I drank, and did, the rest of that afternoon.
Final Thoughts About Mushroom Foraging in Pretoria
I think that even though we only found the dried out rusk remnants of several varieties of mushrooms last weekend, many of which most probably have a lot of medicinal benefits, it was so refreshing to just spend some time in nature, looking for things.
And appreciating the fact that there are so many things happening around you. Things that you’re not aware of when you’re going from your apartment to your car, and in and out of indoor air-conditioned places everyday.
In fact, it’s even more of a reminder to stay more sober, more often, and wake up early more to do these kinds of things. Well, at least try as often as possible. Especially now that the rainy season has finally come, and there are bound to be a lot of mushrooms coming up all over the place.
Have you ever gone mushroom foraging in Pretoria? If you have, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Also, if you know any of the mushroom species in the pictures, please share!