Mark Foletta is a professional mushroom forager and specialty producer of fruit and vegetables.
Story + Photos Cormac Hanrahan
With an open pocketknife in hand, Mark Foletta peers through the murky light beneath a dense canopy of close-growing plantation pines searching for his quarry. Suddenly, he drops to the forest floor and examines a barely discernible hump in the cover of pine needles. Like a sapper inspecting a landmine, he uses the tip of his knife to delicately remove pine needles and slowly reveals a smooth dome of purple fungus. With bright eyes and a big grin, he clears away more ground cover to reveal a stalk, deftly slices it at the base and gathers it up for inspection.
“This one’s a Clitocybe nuda, one of my absolute favourites,” Mark says. For the next few hours he continues to stalk through the forest, engrossed in the search for mushrooms. At times he comes across an area where hundreds of orange, purple and beige heads poke above the ground and soon the canvas-covered tray and back seats of his ute are filled to the roof with paper-lined crates of saffron milk caps, grey ghosts, slippery Jacks, and crab brittlegills.
With the mushrooms packed, Mark hits the road, and in just a couple of hours is delivering them into the hands of top chefs at some of Melbourne’s finest restaurants. “In a good year, I’ll put over two tonne of mushrooms into Melbourne,” says Mark, who also sells to suppliers of veggie boxes and the general public at farmers’ markets.
It’s not all foraging fungi in the forest, however, for Mark also produces cherries, cherry wood and heirloom pumpkins from his modest 8ha farm at Yin Barun, 14km south of Benalla, Vic.
This story excerpt is from Issue #137
Outback Magazine: June/July 2021