Fungi in my own backyard! Edible? Maybe. Thousand-dollar truffles? Unlikely. However, you never know when you could find a delicious truffle in your own backyard.
This beautiful specimen was in one of my experiments. The soil for this experiment is from Lake Cowal, NSW and is covered with locally sourced woodmulch. The mulch is made from both native and introduced species. This means the fungi could be Australian or from elsewhere. This tiny fungi was found in a cluster underneath the woodmulch. Each were about 1cm long, with brown stem and a lighter coloured top. I was unable to find anything in my book, but it could be a stem-puffball or some sort of coral fungi. My supervisor, John Field, was hopeful it was the early stage of an edible truffle. Maybe I can make some truffle money to help run my experiments???
These beauties were found in my backyard. They popped up under a conifer after some cold-wet weather. I believe they are a Basidiomycota (toadstools and mushrooms), a Cortinarius species. There are about 2000 species of Cortinarius, making them difficult to identify. However, there is a list available on Wikipedia. These are definitely not truffles. Cortinarius species can range from edible, to magic, to deadly. You have to be careful before you eat!
Believe it or not, Australia has its very own truffles. Trees, Truffles and Beasts talks about forests and fungi in Australia, including truffle species found in our native forests. We don't eat these truffles, but there is a movement to commercialise Australian truffle species. Currently, Australia produces the same species that are favourable in France; T. melanosporum. This requires tree species that are native to European conditions (hazlenuts and oaks). If we consider our own native truffle production, we can also improve remnant forest conservation. A movement towards native truffle production will have many positive benefits for the environment. Landholders may be more likely to look after remnant forest or may even replant native forest to produce truffles. This means improved biodiversity, water quality and soil in our landscape.
However, there is still alot of research needed regarding Australian truffles before commercialisation. Researching truffle growing, tree and truffle species, and even if they are edible (tasting!!) is important information to help support an industry. Trees, Truffles and Beasts do talk about animals which eat the truffles. Perhaps we can use tour native animals as culinary guides?
Next time you are digging around in your backyard and you find a funny mushroomy lump it may be a truffle! (just be careful about eating it... )
For information on the truffle industry in Australia, see the Australian Truffle Grower's Association Website or Truffles Australis.