The Pine Mushroom, a Renewable Resource
Among all the choice mushrooms growing in our forests, such as Chanterelle (Pfifferlinge), Lobster, King Boletus, Honey Mushroom, and many others, no fungus can compare in monetary value to the prized Pine Mushroom. Every fall local and out-of-town mushroom buyers set up shop for the annual harvesting bonanza. This is the time of the year, when people, who would normally sleep a few extra winks on the weekends, get our of bed way before dawn and scour the woods for that elusive fungus.
The article below is an excerpt taken from the Arrow Lakes News published last year in their October 29th edition. It describes very well the dilemma of the major industries in our area, timber and mushroom, being in conflict with each other over the management of our natural resources. The photos shown on this post are from my own personal archive.
Since she was 12 years old, Jean Hewat has been involved in the mushroom industry. As a kid, she went out with her family picking for pocket-money and she’s been buying mushrooms from other pickers at her place on 15 Avenue on the north end of town for the past 21 years. With some help from her mother and occasionally other family members, she is more or less a one-woman show.
The set up has moved from her garage to a new building still being finished on her property with plenty of parking and a large walk-in cooler. She explains the unfinished building during an interview with the Arrow Lakes News as her mother answers the phone and groups of pickers come in carrying their bounty — large buckets of freshly picked fungi.
The odour inside is damp and mossy — the baskets of mushrooms are mostly the large, fluffy white pine, or Matsutake as they are known in Japan, where most of these are destined to go. The largest market for pine mushrooms in the world is in Japan, but Canada is not the only supplier. They are also grown in the US, China, Scandinavia and elsewhere.
Local to Nakusp, Chanterelles, Lobster and several other varieties sprout up inexplicably in pockets throughout the forest. Many locals covet their spots; at least those that haven’t been decimated by the biggest competitor to mushrooms: forestry.
Logging is one of the highest paying primary industries in the Kootenays, yet it poses the biggest threat to the niche industry of mushrooming.
Mushrooms are a multi-million dollar industry bringing tourists, pickers and buyers to the area. During September and October, the streets are lined with vehicles belonging to people who are in town because of this natural resource. They are buying gas, groceries and other supplies and are staying in hotel rooms and going out to dinner. More dollars are being pumped into the local economy, but all of it is threatened by clearcut logging.
“Mushrooms grow naturally in certain little micro climates, pockets and patches that are ideal for their growth. It is possible for the two industries to coexist. My family grew up on logging,” Hewat explains while sorting pines by hand. “They don’t grow everywhere; just small spots in the forest. In hindsight, things like selective logging, saving sections probably could have been done but it hasn’t.”
Janis Dahlen of Jan and Dan’s Mushroom Station echoes the same sentiment.
“Clear cutting—it takes the mushrooms right out and it could be 80 years before they grow back. We’ve worked the last couple of years with Nakusp and Area Community Forest (NACFOR) to do some strip logging to try to preserve some of the mushroom areas. But (much of it is) being logged as we speak and the mushrooms will never come back. Logging is our first industry in Nakusp. It’s a hard mix.”