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MORAN: It's B.C. wild mushroom season: Ask for them by name

September 07, 2016 - 2:58 PM



Every year, since 2010, I have been harvesting wild mushrooms in September and October for chefs and home cooks. As a I write, white chanterelles and lobster mushrooms are for sale at the Kelowna Farmers and Crafters Market. I suspect they will be available at the Vernon market as well (ask for Dan the mushroom man).

The Okanagan Valley is a bit too hot and dry for a wild mushroom crop. For harvest, we mushroom hunters migrate to the nearby Monashee mountains. The Kootenays are good too. You can't have too many mushroom patches. They are often logged, or can be damaged by storms. Mushroom hunters must be adaptable.

Image Credit: Contributed/Kira Sawatzky

Chanterelles are the most well-known wild edible fungi. They can be found in almost every province and territory. Although most people have never harvested wild mushrooms for the plate, those who have, most likely picked chanterelles. Famous locations for chanterelle picking in the west are the west coast (Haida Gwaii, Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands, Sunshine coast), Terrace, Nakusp/Revelstoke, and surprisingly, northern Saskatchewan. Most of these areas produce the yellow chanterelle (they are actually orange). The region I harvest is near Nakusp and it produces a different variety, the white chanterelle.

For decades the yellow chanterelle has been considered far better than the white chanterelle. Things have changed, and I am confident a survey of our local chefs would find the white chanterelles heavily favoured. They grow in a climate that can be a bit more extreme. Colder nights and occasional dry weather make for a unique kind of mushroom that can be very dense and hardy. It is best to avoid the patch for a few days after heavy rain, they will soak it right up.

Keep an eye out for wild mushrooms, especially chanterelles, on the menus of our local fine dining establishments. If you haven't had wild mushrooms cooked by a chef, your first time should be a memorable experience. There should be new textures and flavours with every bite.

Beware of the fake stuff. More than one restaurant in the Okanagan is misleading customers with B.C. wild mushrooms on the menu. If not specified, ask your server what species are being served. Crimini mushrooms are just the Italian name for standard supermarket mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms do grow wild in small amounts. They are also easy to farm and are available year-round from the major suppliers. Genuine wild mushrooms will also be more expensive than a typical dish on a restaurant menu. If your wild mushrooms on toast is $8 it should make you wonder.

This industry supports a few people like me, who adapt our lifestyles to be out in the wild as much as possible, harvesting from the forest. It isn't easy. Driving, hiking, rain, bears, droughts, winter. That said, I wouldn't trade this lifestyle for any other. I am especially proud to be supported in my hometown, and so glad I am not in the position of so many young people from Kelowna who have to leave the Okanagan and B.C. to survive our economy.

A meal cooked in the bush at a mushroom picking camp near Nakusp. Local veggies and mushrooms were picked around camp just before dinner.
A meal cooked in the bush at a mushroom picking camp near Nakusp. Local veggies and mushrooms were picked around camp just before dinner.
Image Credit: Contributed/Kira Sawatzky

— Scott Moran is a local forager discovering his own path to food freedom

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
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