(Chanterelle) pickers protect secrets
Daniel B. Wheeler
dwheeler at ipns.com
Wed Nov 6 04:55:59 EST 2002
>From The Oregonian, Nov. 15, 1981
Pickers protect secrets
Mushrooming often turns a tidy profit
BREMERTON, Wash (AP) - With the economy being what it is, picking
mushrooms and selling them may well be the biggest season industry in
Kitsap and Mason counties these days.
In one week in October, Jeff Logan, 23, of Belfair, snapped up 368
pounds of mushrooms and sold them, at up to $1.25 a pound, to Bigfoot
Evergreens in Belfair.
It earned him a $25 weekly bonus from the Belfair firm, and Logan
says this isn't even a good year for mushrooms.
Last year, Logan said, "We were making $60 and $70 a day pretty easy,
and we were only picking maybe two, three hours a day."
Bud Kennedy and his boys - Bill, Dan, John and Mike - run Bigfoot
Evergreens and buy mushrooms for the Olympia Mountain Mushroom Co. of
The pickers are called shroomers. Logan says anyone can do it.
"It only took us a couple of hours to figure out what to pick and
find out where to pick them," he said.
He and his partenr, Joe Pruitt, 19, also of Belfair, are picking
chanterelles right now, but hope soon to be finding the big-money
fungus - the Matsutake, or White Pine mushroom.
Logan and the Kenedys are generaous with advice on how to identify
chanterelles and other edible mushrooms. And they'll tell you how to
pick them and what types bring the best money.
But there's one thing they won't tell you - where they find THEIR
Ask Logan where he picked that bucket of glowing golden chanterelles
and he'll say with a grin: "In the woods."
Shroomers are secretive of their most productive spots.
What they will tell you is where in the woods you are likely to find
"Look for areas that are covered by sparse salal growth," said Bill
Kennedy, 26. "For old logs and large hemlock and Douglas fir trees, on
hillsides. I've never seen them growing around bracken fern."
Kennedy said the chantarelles they buy are picked up weekly and
shipped to a processing plant near Port Angeles. They're packed in
brine and shipped to Germany, where folks have a positive craving for
this pungent flavorsome, fungus.
"The biggest chantarelle producer in the world is Poland. It's like
pretzels and beer here, only over there, I hear it's chanterelles and
beer. They don't eat or drink anything without eating chanterelles
with it," he said.
"But they're only getting about 30 percent of their normal crop
thisyear. Trouble is, we're having a really bad year, too. This year,
we're buying maybe 6,000 pounds a week. Last year, we were buying
anywhere between 3,500 to 6,000 pounds a DAY, man."
Kennedy has been a shroomer for about seven years, ong enough to
remember the last time - about five years ago - that there was a
sizable crop of White Pine mushrooms.
"I made $1,200 in two hours," he said. "Those things only come once,
maybe every five years and they say this is the year for em."
"They grow on ridge caps, in gravelly soil with mediocre timber
cover, right around the drip line of trees. I've never seen them
growing on flat ground."
He said the Matsutake is highly valued in Japan, and that most of the
picking grounds there were destroyed years ago by overpicking.
Kennedy says more than 300 shroomers sell their pickings to the
"The thing that's amazing is, a beginning stands just as much chance
as I do. You can walk over a hill and find a whole mess of them."
The stable wild mushroom is the chantarelle. It is found throughout
the Northwest woodlands in great abundance, usually from early
September through mid and Late November.
The Kennedy's pay $1.25 a pound for "yellows" and 75 cents for
"whites." To the untrained eye, they all look the color of egg yolk,
but Kennedy says it doesn't take long to become a chanterelle expert.
"The easiest way to spot a chantarelle is to look at the gills.' No
other mushroom has gills that look like it."
The gills are blunt and folded, usually forked and cross-veined, the
same color as the cap. They run down the stem.
Shroomers say that once you can recognize a chanterelle, you'll
never mistake it for another mushroom.
They have smooth, rounded or ruffled upturned caps which vary in
color from yellowish white to deep gold. The cap is often vase-or
Logan says there is only one problem with shrooming:
"They do taste good. You get yourself a saucepan and put some butter
in it, and you get the butter melted and then you cook them until all
the water comes out and the butter is back to its original color. I'll
usually keep a pound or two for myself."
Comment by poster: until I read this article, I didn't think the
commercial harvest of mushrooms in the PNW began until 1980. This
seems to indicate that chanterelles, at the least, were being
harvested commercially in Washington in 1976 or so. And it's possible
that morel mushroom harvesting began even earlier than that!
Daniel B. Wheeler
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