At this time of the year there are many foods to forage, but with summer ending I began to think about my native trees again and how I should get out on the farm to plant more of them. We need wind protection, we need more habitat, more visual green. But then mushroom season began and so I explained to my trees that I needed them to wait, to wait just a bit longer. ‘Please could you wait’, I asked.
The Lemon Scented Gums said that it was pretty clear to them that if they waited any longer they would perish. I’d driven all the way to Melbourne and bought them. I’d woken up at 5am to get them at market, did I really want to run the risk of losing them after all that effort. I said ‘no…no I don’t want to run that risk but I just can’t stop foraging…I can’t, I’m in a groove and I can’t get out…just a few more weeks, I pleaded, the mushrooms are out and in fact the chestnuts are too and they won’t be back in the area for another 12 months’, I explained to the Gums.
I grabbed my baskets and knife and joined my neighbours in the pine forest.
In the car later, I began to spot maturing chestnut trees and stopped to assess their development, ‘not ripe yet’.
I explained to the chestnuts that I would be back. The chestnut trees were huge, with lots of nuts, how very exciting.
In the pine forest that Beela took me to, there were lots of Lactarius deliciosus, Pine mushrooms. We harvested them until our baskets were full.
I went back to the chestnut trees a few weeks later and saw that many of the burrs had fallen to the ground. They must be ready, I thought, and went and stood under the large canopy of one of the trees, a rain of falling chestnut burrs fell all around me and I could hear the hysteria of sulphur-crested cockatoos. The cockatoos were eating the chestnuts green, before they had matured. I couldn’t believe it, at the rate that they were demolishing them there would be not one left. I looked for other trees and again the same situation. I was genuinely taken aback…surely I would not have to resort to buying chestnuts?
And then face book posts appeared about a bounty of chestnuts here and there, in places where the cockatoos had yet to feast. And so through word of mouth and social media I harvested castanea enough to fill a basket and we made chestnut filled ravioli.