It was the weekend before the storm. Talk of gale force winds and “rain so hard it will melt your face off” circulated the social medias. I was tempted to buy wellies, I even asked at the Pick N Pay, but I’m not sure they would have the correct wellies for my style. I resigned myself to mud messing up my not so new Vans and throwing caution to the wind. No Pun.
Justin Williams is a journalist by day and on the weekends he dons a basket, a beard, a cap and a knife. Known to many now as the mushroom forager, he has made quite a nice sideline hobby for himself and other weirdos who like to spend their days walking in forests searching for fungi.
We attended the Boschendal Forage. Set in the picturesque wine lands, the weekend includes a Saturday Afternoon forage, accompanied with a mushroom inspired dinner served up by the fancy Boschendal chefs. Sunday morning includes a morning forage and then a lunch down at a private venue complete with freshly squeezed mushroom soup, charcuterie boards your momma would be proud of and a view that looks like a Monet painting. Also wine, yes, of course, wine.

As Justin explains, mushrooms are very territorial, so where one rule applies to Cape Town, another entirely different rule applies to Joburg. Apparently, any mushroom with a sponge under the cap are edible to eat in Western Cape, but the same rule will not apply in Joburg. We stomped our way under the trees in the forest and found basket loads of Poplar Boletus – ordinarily found under Poplar trees. Our forage consisted mainly of these as weather plays a vital part in the growth of the mushys and the drought is causing havoc with nature. Having said that – we still walked away with 2 full baskets of mushrooms.

“People demonise the wild mushroom” – Justin says. “Just because you haven’t learnt how to properly identify them, doesn’t mean there arent many edible varieties that go to waste because of this.” Although I do agree, I am not going to be munching on a shroom just to check out the flavour until I have become a guru myself. Interestingly enough, we picked up a mushroom that had been nibbled on a by a local Squirrel.
“This does not mean the mushroom is edible”, says Justin. “Our anatomies are so different that the squirrel can survive a death cap, and we will die an excruciating liquefying organ sort of death”.

And on that note, I cannot wait for my dinner!

Day 2 was meant to be a Porcini hunt. The coveted and praised mushroom of the lands, but due to muddy marshland under the pines, it was not porcini season. Heading towards another forest and up a dry river bed we found mainly boletus, but also some of the most medicinal Mushrooms in the world, the sacred Reishi. Reishi Mushroom is perhaps the most beloved of all precious foods, called Ling Zhi – “The Mushroom of Spiritual Potency” in Traditional Chinese Medicine, It holds its place as an essential ingredient in a healthy life.

For anyone who wants to do something different in Cape Town, besides the normal wine tastings and the shark cage diving, then put this on your “I want to do this one day” list. Staying at the Boschendal Wine Farm ( which is included in the fee) is a very special experience – a treat you deserve after trying to battle life in South Africa.

Dishes Made and Survived.
1. Butter mushrooms with fresh farm cream with eggs bacon and fresh Tomato for breakfast
2. Mushroom Risotto with white wine and Poplar Boletus.
3. Creamy Mushrooms on Toast with fresh thyme stolen from the Babylonstoren gardens.
4. Dried Mushrooms for Future Deliciousness
Check out the Mushroom Forager on
Instagram @the_mushroom_forager
Upcoming Foraging Events – https://veldandsea.com
Words / Photos –
Joanne Olivier