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B.C. fires good news for morel mushroom pickers

07/09/2015 10:58 EDT | Updated 07/09/2016 05:59 EDT
If there is one silver lining that may emerge from the destruction caused by B.C.'s wildfires, it's morel mushrooms.

The morel mushroom, considered a delicacy among foodies, literally rises from the ashes the year after a forest has been ravaged by fire, according to Bill Jones, owner and chef of Deerholme Farms on Vancouver Island, and author of The Deerholme Mushroom Book.

Morel mushrooms help extend the root network of plants and trees by providing them with nutrients and water from the soil, said Jones. The plants and trees in turn provide the fungi with things like sugar.

"It's kind of believed that once the trees die in a fire, it kicks off a bit of a survival mechanism in the morels, and they're popping up," Jones told All Points West.

"So the morel itself is the fruit of a [fungus], and that fruit pops up and then sends out spores. So it's trying to expand, basically survive, and send out spores to create more [fungi]."

Jones says prices typically fluctuate, but fresh morel mushrooms can sometimes go for between $25 to $50 a pound, while dried ones can cost around $135 a pound.

He says the early and intense fire season in B.C. this summer may mean that people in search of the coveted morels along the south coast can expect quite a bounty next year.

"A dry year, maybe with more intense heat, often produces bumper crops for the following year," he said.

Things to know before foraging

The greater the supply, the lower the prices, said Jones.

Earlier this season, hundreds of mushroom pickers and buyers flocked to the Northwest Territories in anticipation of a record harvest.

But B.C.'s fire season from the year before, and the territory's own record-breaking fire season, meant more mushrooms are on the market this year. Prices have gone down as a result.

Plus, morel picking is dangerous and hard work, said Jones.

"It's a messy business because you're walking through a charred forest landscape, so there's lots of charcoal, lots of dust," he said.

"You really get covered with a fine, black soot, but you kind of get taken over by the gold fever of picking the morels, so you don't notice the dirt very much until you get back to camp."

Listen to the interview: Forest fires bring on tasty morel mushrooms

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