Mushroom pickers are finding a silver lining in last summer’s devastating wildfires.
Lorna Janas has set up a stall along Highway 97 in 100 Mile House for her son’s business Coast Mountain Mushrooms and specialty foods, out of Terrace, and has been seeing a steady trade of pickers bringing in “fire morels.” The morels are so named because they bloom following wildfires.
”You have a fire one year, the next spring they will all grow,” Janas said, noting morels are “shooting spores” and are found everywhere. “When a fire comes, it’s the right conditions for them to grow. A lot of harvesters make their living doing this so they will go to where the fires are and do the picking.
“It’s also nice for local people because the horror of having a forest fire near you is terrible but the next day you can get a little bit to help rebuild.”
The South Cariboo was a natural stop for the company this year, she said, following extensive wildfires last summer. On Monday evening, Janas had several bins full of “fire morels,” mostly the blonde and grey versions.
One fellow said he got his morels at the Flat Lake fire site, while Eirik Iverson and his wife and daughter found 112 pounds of one kind and 17 pounds at nearby burns. They split the profits three ways, with Iverson saying he will “put it away for a rainy day.”
Iverson, who has been picking on and off for 30 years ever since his parents saw a roadside mushroom buyer in Alaska, said it’s a fun side hustle.
“You can find some good patches and make decent money,” he said.
Janas thanked the family for their mushrooms, saying they were “really good quality.” She noted they are usually up in the Yukon, but her son was also recently in Vernon.
“We have to follow the forest fires,” she said. “It will go on for a couple of months the mushrooms before they die out.”
There are several species of fire morels in British Columbia, including Morchella tomentosa (gray fire morel), Morchella sextelata (pink fire morel) and Morchella septimelata (green fire morel), according to the B.C. government’s website. There are also “morel relatives with which they might be confused: Gyromitra esculenta (false morel) and Verpa bohemica (false early morel).”