04:00 am and my alarm screams me awake… It’s time to go mushroom foraging with one of South Africa’s favourite restaurant’s new head chef, Travis Finch. A quick shower, a shirt, my skinny jeans and my Vans are all that I feel I need to get me through the foraging hours. I can’t wear gum boots, I get claustrophobic, so I will just have to take my chances with the forrest snakes and other critters.

04:45 am Travis is right on time. Off we head to the Central Drakensburg, to an area just about 55 minutes from Hartford House.

A thick mist fills the landscape and the beauty of the sunrise against the mountains is replaced by an airy yet beautifully unscripted feeling of awe as I look at the forrest that lies ahead of us, and anticipate the adventure that is about to begin.

We head into the dense tree line, my cameras in hand and Travis with rugged long stick in one hand and a basket strapped over his back to hold the elusive mushrooms he is about to search for. I ask Travis about the stick, he says “I don’t like snakes, I just might need this”.

The images that follow are taken on this journey of foraging and exploration. Although the much sought after Porcini proved to be too elusive on this particular morning, Travis will certainly be back to find the exotic treat that bring smiles to the tastebuds of all who taste the cuisine that this masterful chef has to offer at the wonderful Hartford House.

In Travis’ own words - “Foraging for ingredients is a new fad capturing the imagination of foodies world over. For me it came about when I heard the elusive Boletus Edulis resides in the forests of the KZN Midlands.”

Fortunately and un-fortunately the season for these incredible Funghi takes centre stage from early to late summer, the busiest time of year for a chef. The first day I ventured into the moody pine forests encapsulating the Midlands I was bleary eyed and exhausted at 5am. As I begun to take in my surroundings I realised the abundance the earth has to offer without the helping hand of man, with the availability of any product on our doorsteps all year round. The novel and exotic lie in ingredients hand-picked and personally nurtured” - Extract from the Hartford website (http://www.hartford.co.za/news/2014/10/27/following-in-our-ancestors-footsteps)

From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boletus_edulis) - Boletus edulis, commonly known as the porcini (as well as penny bun, porcino or cep), is a basidiomycete fungus, and the type species of the genus Boletus. Prized as an ingredient in various foods, B. edulis is an edible mushroom held in high regard in many cuisines, and is commonly prepared and eaten in soups, pasta, or risotto. The mushroom is low in fat and digestible carbohydrates, and high in protein, vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Although it is sold commercially, it is very difficult to cultivate.

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