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Tasmanian Mushrooms: A Foraging Feature by Bronek Burza

By August 23, 2021No Comments
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Cortinarius archeri tasmanian mushroom

Bronek Burza, Tasmanian-based fungi photographer, above a crop of Cortinarius archeri.

A Political Refugee-Turned Tasmanian Mushroom Forager

My name is Bronek Burza. I am a Polish-born, 70-year-old retired chemical engineer who now spends his time foraging and photographing wild and wonderful Tasmanian mushrooms.

I had a successful career in the fiber optics industry. I worked internationally for a long time for Corning, an American company that invented how to make optical fiber. Now, in my retirement in Tasmania, Australia, I have the pleasure of focusing on photographing a subject I have loved (and relied on) since youth: mushrooms.

While I was born and raised in Poland, I now call Australia home. During the period of civil unrest in 1980’s Poland—which was related to the resistance movements against the communist rule—I escaped the country with my young wife and 6-month-old daughter. We left Poland just before martial law was declared and arrived in Australia as political refugees in 1981, almost 40 years ago.

For the vast majority of my time in Australia, I have lived in Melbourne and Sydney, but 8 years ago, when I was approaching my retirement, I moved to Hobart. Hobart, the capital of Australia’s island state of Tasmania, is arguably the prettiest city in the country and definitely the one with the best lifestyle.

Three years ago, when I retired completely, I got into photography. This pastime attracted me after my chance meeting with a very good Polish fungi photographer. As I will later explain, I have had a love of mushrooms since my childhood, and at one time relied on eating them for survival. Now, I can appreciate them not only as a delicious and healthy food source but as wondrous subjects for my photography.

I am an amateur, but I am influenced by 3 great fungi photographers, and I am hoping that one day I’ll learn how to get my photography skills close to their mastery. These three master fungi photographers are Australia’s Stephen Axford, America’s Alison Pollack, and Poland’s Robert Kozak.

Favorite Photos of Tasmanian Mushrooms (And Some Polish Ones, Too)

Here is a collection of some of my favorite photos of Tasmanian mushrooms, and also of some from my Polish homeland.

From the photography point of view, I love all mushrooms. They are magical creations of nature, and they have every color or shape imaginable.

I found this Cortinarius archeri at Mt Wellington National Park in Hobart, Tasmania. Cortinarius is the most common fungi genus in the world. Like many Cortinarius fungi, these are poisonous. Many people do not believe that fungi could have such an intense purple colour. I have been accused of photoshopping these photos (and I don’t even have Photoshop).
I found this second example of Cortinarius archeri in the same spot as the previous, exactly 1 year apart.
This Lactarius delicious is a relatively common wild edible mushroom in Tasmania. In Poland, my home country, it is one of the most prized wild mushrooms. This mushroom type was introduced to Tasmania with the importation of pine trees. I found this specimen in a pine plantation. These mushrooms are very tasty. I know many great recipes for cooking them but the best is just to barbecue them with a little salt.
I found these Mycena interrupta (also known as Pixie parasols) at Philosopher Falls in North-West Tasmania. These small blue mushrooms typically have a cap of only 5 to 8 mm in diameter.
This is another example of Mycena interrupta which I found at Mt. Wellington in Hobart, Tasmania. The Pixie parasol, as these are also known, is considered by many as the fungi symbol of Tasmania.
I found these Cyttaria gunnii (commonly known as the myrtle orange), in Southern Tasmania. It is an edible ascomycete fungus endemic to the Southern Hemisphere. These mushrooms are most common in Australia, but can also be found in New Zealand and South American countries like Chile. It is a specific parasite of myrtle beech trees. It was traditional Aboriginal food. I’ve tried it but I wasn’t impressed—they are a bit tasteless.
I located this beautiful specimen of Hericium Erinaceus (Lion’s Mane mushroom) along the Duck Hole Lake Trail in Southern Tasmania. I believe that it is one of the most beneficial fungi for human health, based on the literature I have read about its brain-protective properties. I know a couple of Lion’s mane fungi growers in Tasmania, so I often buy this mushroom fresh for cooking. They are delicious.
I found this Trametes versicolor (Turkey tail) in a friend’s blueberry orchard in Tasmania. This fungi has some of the most scientific literature supporting its potential health benefits, especially concerning strengthening the immune system. Learning about this fungi prompted my friend to put some in blueberry tea. It is common in the Tasmanian bush, I find it often.
This is one of the prized mushrooms I found while foraging in South-central Poland. It is a poisonous fungi and there are many myths and legends associated with it. It is rare and in Poland it’s on a strictly protective list—they grow in only 4 or 5 locations in the country. Every fungi photographer dreams to find them. I was lucky to know people who knew where to locate them. They are very photogenic indeed.
I found this Boletus edulis (porcini) mushroom behind a friend’s holiday house in the Polish Tatra mountains. This is the most sought after fungi in many European countries. The foraging for porcini in August and September is a yearly national sport in Poland. I cannot imagine a Christmas in Poland without many porcini-based dishes. This is truly the king of the Polish forest.

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Polish and Tasmanian Mushrooms: Fungi for Food & Photos

My fascination with fungi started very early when I was 5-6 years old. When my family was poor during the dark, difficult communist times in Poland, we often had to rely on foraging edible mushrooms. We picked porcini, wild blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries to survive.

I spent each school holiday and every autumn weekend in the forest hunting for porcini or Lactarius delicious with my parents, cousins, and other relatives. Porcini is known as the King of the Polish forest—they are highly sought after and foraging for them is practically a national sport in my home country. I cannot imagine Christmas in Poland without many porcini dishes.

Nowadays I don’t eat meat for ethical and health reasons and mushrooms of all kinds are my meat substitute. I eat mushrooms at least 3 to 4 times a week—I just love them! I also read a lot about them, and strongly believe they are good for your health.

For the last 10 years (until 2019 and the advent of Covid) I have spent approximately 4-5 months each year in Krakow, Poland, but my main principal home is in Hobart, Tasmania. While much of my photography has taken place in Poland and other parts of Europe, most of my photographic forays are in Tasmania.

Tasmania is heaven for fungi. There are many national parks around Hobart, especially at the base of Mt. Wellington where I can find abundant, interesting fungi to photograph. The best locations are in the West and Northwest of Tasmania where I often visit.

Favorite Edible and Medicinal Fungi

I wish you could see the faces of my Australian friends when I have them over for a barbeque and instead of steaks I offer them Lactarius delicious!

I forage and eat wild mushrooms when I am in Europe and my favorites are Boletus edulis (porcini), Cantharellus (saffron milk cap), and Lactarius delicious (from the chanterelle family). When I return to Australia I always bring back some dried porcini. While there are many wild, edible mushrooms in Australia (and I know how to recognize them), I generally only forage Lactarius delicious. I can find these mushrooms easily in Tasmania’s pine plantations because it is on the pines imported from Europe that Lactarius delicious initially made their way to Australia.

Lactarius delicious is, as its name implies, very tasty. I know many great recipes for cooking them but the best is just to barbeque them with a little salt. I wish you could see the faces of my Australian friends when I have them over for a barbeque and instead of steaks, I offer them Lactarius delicious!

Because I love to eat mushrooms and also use them as a meat substitute, I buy and eat many cultivated types. I like Lion’s mane, Shiitake, all kinds of Oysters, and I love even common white button mushrooms.

I have also used mushrooms as functional support for my health. I’ve enjoyed blueberry tea with added Turkey tail mushroom powder to boost the immune system. The scientific papers I have read support that eating white button mushrooms is very protective to cellular health. I have also read about Lion’s mane mushroom’s benefits for supporting brain health, and about Turkey tail and Reshi’s medicinal attributes. I have some problems with sleeping and I am excited to be able to try Real Mushroom’s Reishi product because Reishi is known for promoting restful sleep.

Tasmanian mushroom forager - Bronek Burza

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