Simone Egger

FIELD TRIPS

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Mushroom expert and photographer Alison Pouliot teams with chef Michael de Jong at winery Ellender Estate for three workshops. The first, on April 25, covers the main fungal groups and how to identify various species. Aterwards, there's a three-course mushroom-inspired lunch. Friday's program is similar except that before the three-course lunch, de Jong will also teach you how to cook all the dishes. Saturday takes a more sensorial approach, using smell and touch to distinguish between species, and there's pizza for lunch. On all days there's the opportunity for a mushroom hunt.

$120-$195 a person. 260 Green Gully Road, Glenlyon, 5348 7785, email jenny@ellenderestate .com.au; ellenderwines.com.au

COOKING CLASS

Matt Donnelly is a chef (and co-owner of the Commoner) and a mushroom hunter. For four months of the year, he forages in the forest for highly prized varieties such as morels to supply to restaurants. Mushrooming spots are tightly held secrets but include forests in NSW, Victoria and SA. Donnelly runs mushrooming tours at Bress in Harcourt, including lunch and how-tos on finding, identifying, cooking, preparing, preserving and partnering. He also runs a city workshop when you can hear his mushrooming tips and learn three recipes.

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Tours: $95 a person; May 18 & 25, June 1; thecommoner.com.au. City class: May 28th; $90 a person; Queen Victoria Market; www.qvm.com.au

GROW YOUR OWN

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All the wonder of growing and harvesting your own food becomes possible within a week in something the size of a tissue box with Fungi Culture's mushroom kits. Just slice open the bag, mist a few times a day and watch them double in size daily. Fungi Culture kits produce pearl oyster mushrooms that grow off a vertical column. ''They are way more sustainable than button mushrooms,'' Todd Mansfield of Fungi Culture says. ''Pearl oysters grow on renewable, locally sourced wheat straw - although in a few months we'll be moving over to used coffee grounds. Button mushrooms grow in non-renewable peat that's imported from Europe.'' Each kit generally produces two large crops - and that's a guarantee.

Kit, including postage, $27.95. fungiculture.com.au

WILD-MUSHROOM MAN

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Damian Pike has been selling mushrooms at Prahran Market for 26 years. He stocks a whopping 36 varieties throughout the year, including exotics such as shimeji, shiitake and oyster, which are mostly grown in Australia. There are buttons and huge portobello mushrooms as well as imported chanterelles - Pike says they are ''beautiful, one of the top mushrooms in the world''. And, depending on the weather, there'll be pine mushrooms, blewits and slippery jacks, too - varieties of local wild forest mushrooms. ''Mushrooms grow in four-year cycles,'' Pike says, ''but that's all gone out the window in the last two years; it's spooky, there's been no rain.'' Let the heavens open.

Shop 116, Prahran Market, 163 Commercial Road, South Yarra, 0411 438 465.

BURGERS

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Portobellos are huge, brown-capped mushrooms. They have a meaty texture, firm flesh and earthy flavour. Containing no fat, sodium or cholesterol, they have good doses of vitamins B and D, as well as minerals and more protein than any vegetable. And that makes them great for burgers. You can marinate a whole mushroom, grill it, then add lettuce, melted cheese, tomato and onion - as at Beatbox Kitchen food truck ($10). Or chop up your mushroom to make a patty. The Tramway Hotel's mushroom burger pattie has extra protein from tofu, and gets its flavour from thyme; it comes with tempeh, shredded lettuce, tomato, red onion and hand-cut chips (above, $16).

Beatbox Kitchen, beatboxkitchen.com; Tramway Hotel, 165 Rae Street,

North Fitzroy, tramwayhotel.com