Take a walk on the (culinary) wild side
Mushroom forager Justin Williams loves going off the beaten track to find his food.
CAPE TOWN - Autumn is in the air but Justin Williams has a spring in his step. His favourite season has finally come and his nose is trained for the distinctive, nutty aroma that points to the presence of a nearby porcini.
Many South Africans would have encountered this mushroom in Italian food and the dried variety is usually sold in upmarket shops at a considerable cost.
Here, however, this delicacy is fresh - and free.
As Williams strides through the forest, dog walkers and passing hikers cast curious looks his way. Many stop to talk to the mysterious figure with basket and knife in hand.
More often than not they are extremely surprised to learn that he is foraging for wild fungi.
"A lot of people ask me 'is that going to kill you?'", he says, with a smile of someone who has a delicious secret.
But as much as Williams loves mushrooms, he is far from greedy and wants to share his knowledge with others.
"I want to spread information about the potential of mushrooms, what it can do for us, the way it grows, how to find them, and hopefully do my part to increase the knowledge about this wonderful food source that's around."
WATCH: EWN goes in search of the tastiest wild fungi in Cape Town's forests with mushroom forager Justin Williams.
Williams is part of a new set of wild food enthusiasts who believe there are benefits to thinking out of the box when it comes to sourcing our meals.
And judging by the amount of foraging workshops they manage to fill, it's an interest shared my many.
While some days are more fruitful than others, Williams says he always comes away with something new.
"My passion about mushrooms is nature itself. Because whenever I come out into nature I learn something new.
"Every single day there's something new to be learnt, and I always take something back with me. Even if I don't find any mushrooms I always take a new learning - a new kind of tree, a new kind of plant, a new bird call.
"There's always something to take out of nature so I relish every time I'm in it and being able to get my food out of nature at the same time is a no-brainer for me."
WATCH: Foraging fundi Roushanna Gray shares some of her secrets about finding your own meals on the Cape coastline.
But the hobby does come with risks and rules to stick by. In the case of mushroom foraging, prospective porcini hunters need to have a permit, which can be obtained from a SANParks or Cape Nature office.
Responsible foraging is also encouraged through the use of quotas, limiting the amount of mushrooms that can be harvested from a particular area.
Williams teaches novice foragers other useful techniques, such as the 'twist and pull' method for picking that causes minimal disturbance of an area.
For more information on fungi foraging courses you can visit http://www.mushlove.co.za