They came to hunt the burnt forests by the hundreds, from Mexico and Canada, California and elsewhere. Corporate picking crews in search of morel mushrooms arrived a few weeks ago in droves at the dawn of what promised to be a fantastic fungal forecast—a million acres of prime morel habitat burned in Montana and Idaho alone. But two weeks of cold, wet and generally uncooperative weather are turning commercial pickers’ banner into bomb.
“Sixty percent of our morel-producing fires are still under snow,” says Larry Evans, founder of the Western Montana Mycological Association.
This appears to be good news for local fungiphiles.
Since corporate picking crews won’t rest on their morels waiting for the snow to melt, Evans reports that three of the five corporate picking crews have moved out from the picking area left by last year’s Jocko Lakes Fire. They’ve headed toward more fertile grounds like Oregon’s Yellow Pine Fire, where tons of the coveted fungi are currently being
“This is good news for personal use pickers,” says Jean-Jacques Myard, a mushroom buyer and seller in St. Ignatius. “Once the commercial pickers are gone, they’re gone, and probably not coming back…Personal-use pickers should have easy pickin’ throughout the season, and right next to the road.”
Evans agrees, although he warns that such unexpected solitude could change overnight.
“Almost all the people we see out there picking are locals,” he says. “It just takes one phone call and you’ll have 500 people on any given fire. But I think there should be plenty to go around.”