Free Food: Saffron Milk Caps

When the weather cools and the ground becomes damp from rain, mycelium quickly sends up its fruiting bodies to continue the cycle of life. Saffron Milk Caps are just one of many mushrooms thrusting forward and upwards into the light.

So really, mushrooms are nothing but phallic appendices ready to spread their spawn. (You’ll never be able to look at a mushroom in the same way again.)

Jokes aside, there’s a good reason the botanical name for Saffron Milk Caps, aka Saffies, is Lactarius deliciosus and that’s because they are delicious.

WARNING: Many mushrooms are poisonous and some are deadly. Never eat any wild mushroom until an expert mycologist has checked its identification.

Habitat

Saffron Milk Caps only grow near pine trees as they live in a mycorrhizal relationship with the host tree. Another of the many names of the Saffron Milk Cap is the Red Pine Mushroom or simply the Pine Mushroom. Where I live we head into the local pine plantations (pinus radiata) to forage for these prolific mushrooms.

They’ve also been known to grow amongst small clusters of pine trees that are not part of a pine plantation.

Victorian pine plantation
Victorian pine plantation

In Victoria and New South Wales, the prime time of year to forage for Saffies is after autumn rainfall. According to Wikipedia, the best locations for Saffron Milk Caps are Macedon in Victoria, Mt Crawford in the Adelaide Hills and the Oberon area of New South Wales. Personally, we find the pine plantations of Bright in Victoria the place for bountiful foraging.

Identifying Features

This dense mushroom has an orange mushroom cap, orange gills and an orange stem.

As the mushroom ages, is damaged or bruises it tends to turn green. This is not the same green indicator of psychedelic mushroom – hence Saffies will not get you high.

The cap can have a diameter of 4 – 15 cm. It is convex in shape, becoming more centrally depressed and vase-shaped as it matures. The top has various shades of orange in concentric rings.

These mushrooms are found pushing up through the pine needles on the forest floor.
These mushrooms are found pushing up through the pine needles on the forest floor.

The gills are crowded and ooze a bright orange milky fluid if cut. Some people refer to this fluid as being latex like in appearance.

Saffron Milk Cap gills: note the green discolouration from bruising
Saffron Milk Cap gills: note the green discolouration from bruising

The stem is hollow and around 5 to 8cm long and 1.5 to 2cm diameter. It is marked with random bright orange pits called scrobiculations.

The hollow stem and convex shaped cap of the Saffron Milk Cap
The hollow stem and convex shaped cap of the Saffron Milk Cap

Edibility

Under the mushroom scales of edibility, Saffron Milk Caps always come out on top.

However, be warned, if you eat a lot of Saffies your urine may turn an orange-red colour. It’s not something to worry about as it is a harmless side effect due to the high beta-carotene levels in the mushroom..

Saffies are suitable for sautéing, grilling, and boiling. They can be included with pasta meals, stuffing, soups, stews, served on toast, cooked in cream-based sauces and served over meat, pickled, or dried and ground as a flavouring agent for stocks and sauces.

Last year, we picked many kilograms of Saffron Milk Caps and ended up drying them in a dehydrator then food processing them to make mushroom salt.

Another benefit of foraging for Saffron Milk Caps is that they are free. These mushroom easily sell for upwards of $30 per kilo in Australia.

Further Information

There are many other sources of information that can help you with identifying Saffron Milk Caps.

  • Facebook: Australian Wild Mushroom Hunters
  • Book: Fungi Down Under, or A Field Guide to the Fungi of Australia, or the similarly named A Field Guide to Australian Fungi
  • App: iFungi AU
  • App: Google Lens

I highly recommend joining the Facebook group Australian Wild Mushroom Hunters for expert mycology advice.

Please remember to never eat any wild mushroom unless you are 100% sure it is safe to eat. Consume at your own risk.

What wild mushrooms do you forage for? Saffron Milk Caps? Field Mushrooms? Slippery Jacks? Puff Balls? Please share details in the comments box below.

Cash Hippy

I'm an everyday person on a journey to save money and care for the environment at the same.

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