Picking blackberries and collecting field mushrooms…oh the  simple pleasures of a 1950s Tasmanian childhood.

There were a couple of  uncultivated paddocks on our farm that produced basketfuls of mushrooms every autumn.  We used to eat them fried on toast for breakfast. Plain old white bread in those days of course, and toasted by the open front of our fuel stove.

Mushrooms on toast.

Mushrooms on toast before school.

As a main course we loved them simmered in some sort of sauce of my mother’s invention. 😍

My sister would also sell any excess to a local grocer for pocket money, as many Tasmanian youngsters did.

I was amazed to find that a man in my hometown of Ulverstone was growing mushrooms from spores as early as 1893. ‘ We are informed by a gentleman at West Ulverstone that he has been presented with, and partaken of two dishes of very fine mushrooms grown by Mr Albert Gillard of West Ulverstone. It may be interesting  to our readers and also the public in general to know that there was very little trouble in growing them. (Coastal News & North Western Advertiser, Feb. 3 1893)  Mr Gillard grew them in a manure bed under an open sided shed.  Well, he did have the advantage of  enjoying them out of season, but I’m sure they weren’t as tasty as those touched by sunshine and morning dew.


Some mushrooms are larger than others!

From The Examiner, Nov. 12 1912

Some seasons are better than others and it must have been a dry old autumn on the North West Coast in 1918,   ‘ ULVERSTONEAll are hunting the paddocks for mushrooms. They are armed with baskets and kerosene tins, but they are very scarce and if a stray one dares to put its head up above the ground it is promptly pounced upon….’ (Examiner, May 8 1918)

During WWII mushrooms and rabbits combined to help counter meat rationing;

The winner of the five shillings was Mrs J, Moore, of Bishopsbourne, near Longford. The idea was to joint a young rabbit, coat the pieces  with  seasoned flour and fry them in butter. They were then put into a piedish with two finely chopped, butter fried onions  and water to reach half-way to the top of the rabbit. The piece de resistance  was a thick layer of mushrooms on top as a crust. The mushrooms were sprinkled with salt and pepper, dotted with small pieces of butter and the pie baked slowed for about an hour.

That sounds pretty good to me. It reminds me that the worst  meal of mushrooms I was ever served was in a major Sydney hospital. Oh good grief, I’m sure they came out of a tin. Whatever possessed me to order them? All I can say is that I must have been VERY ill!  😨

There is another type of mushroom that was very popular in Tasmania. especially at children’s birthday parties…. sweet little tartlets. I found this one with whipped cream at an old-fashioned bakery  in Lithgow, NSW.

Oh joy!

Here is an old-fashioned recipe from the 1930s.

My mother’s version looked like this. Her recipe probably came from the CWA 21st Birthday Book.

Mushroom Tartlets

A birthday party regular.


For information on identifying field mushrooms, CLICK HERE


  1. Growing up in a London apartment, but having maternal grandparents in rural Gloucestershire with whom we spent summer school holidays, I appreciated that I had the best of both worlds. Granny kept chickens so there were always warm eggs to collect – and an occasional roast chicken dinner, but more appreciative of going out with my country-wise cousins to pick early morning mushrooms, and late summer blackberry picking too, the fruits of which granny turned into jams and pies. Her walk-in larder was full of bottled fruits and jams. And yes, an occasional rabbit, dead of course, would turn up at our London flat with just a luggage label tied to its leg.

    • Pauline

      We were the opposite Marcia, our holidays with an aunt in a township were a sheer delight. Oh the joy of walking to a shop to buy lollies and cordial!

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