Secrets of the Forest Floor

Fresh from his discoveries at the Stoneleigh vineyard, we join celebrity chef Mark McEwan on his trip to Nelson. Travelling through the rolling hills and green valleys of Upper Moutere, Mark meets Theres – a mushroom grower from Switzerland who now calls New Zealand home. Moving to the South Island 17 years ago with her husband Hannes and four children, Theres discovered more than just beautiful scenery on arrival. Already avid mushroom hunters, this family stumbled across their own piece of paradise here in the Nelson countryside. Uncovering the perfect land for growing rare Saffron Milk Cap Mushrooms, Theres and Hannes’ passion, expertise and environment joined forces; and so Neudorf Mushrooms was born.

Situated at the top of New Zealand’s South Island, this small slice of rural New Zealand is a special part of the Nelson region, providing the ideal conditions for growing Saffron Milk Cap Mushrooms. Unique in appearance and flavour due to the orange milky sap that gives them their name, their process of creation truly showcases nature’s special strain of brilliance.

Pulling the Saffron Milk Cap from the ground, Theres shows Mark the white mycelium, a web-like substance that forms the foundation for the creation of mushrooms. All over the forest this underground web grows, attaching to tree roots to allow for the essential exchange of water and nutrients.

Due to its texture, mycelium often becomes entangled in itself, forming a knot. This is when a Wonder of Nature occurs. Nurtured by just the right amount of heat and rainfall, this inadvertent knot forms the root of a mushroom. As the mushroom grows, the pine trees cultivate the fungi; fungi that, in turn, breathes life back into the forest.

Ready for harvesting within just a few days, these scarce Saffron Milk Caps are known for their delicious taste and distinctive colour and are best cooked in large pieces to retain their structure. Mark focuses on the bold flavour and meaty texture of the mushrooms, pan-frying them with shallots, garlic and white wine. Finishing with a little butter and fresh herbs, Mark adds seared New Zealand lamb loins, cooked medium rare, to complete this fresh, delicious and simple meal. Complemented by a glass of Stoneleigh Pinot Noir, Mark, Theres and Hannes toast a successful day of harvesting while enjoying a taste of New Zealand’s best local produce, straight from the source.

Chef Mark McEwann Cooking Saffron Milk Cap Mushrooms
Chef Mark McEwann Cooking in New Zealand
New Zealand's Neudorf Mushrooms
Chef Mark McEwann Uncovers Neudorf Mushrooms

Here in the Nelson countryside, Theres and Hannes have found their paradise. Each element of their surroundings depends on the other to survive; each relies on the other to thrive. This is a place where nature’s ingenuity has turned a chance encounter into the perfect pairing. This is their Wonder of Nature.