Harvesting Edible Wild Mushrooms
The commercial harvesting of edible wild mushrooms from British Columbia's forests is increasing. Four species are particularly popular. The pine mushroom (Tricholoma magnivelare) is exported to Japan while morels (Morchella elata) and chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius) are being sent to European destinations. Other edible species are harvested in minor amounts.

As this industry grows and the activity in the forest builds, the British Columbia Forest Service wants to ensure the mushroom resource is protected. Through this brochure the Forest Service wants to promote wise harvesting techniques to protect the sites where mushrooms grow.

The Forest Service also wants to protect the forest resource and promote the safety of the mushroom pickers in our forests and on forest roads.

How mushrooms grow

Mushrooms are the "fruit" of a fungus that lives unseen in the soil or duff on the forest floor. This underground portion of a fungus is a root-like network called a mycelium. Often this mycelium is interconnected with the roots of a living tree. The mycelium annually produces spore-bearing bodies, the mushrooms. The spores produced by the mushrooms germinate in the soil when conditions are right and establish new mycelia in the forest.

When you harvest mushrooms, it is important that you do not harm the mycelium that produces the mushroom. Undamaged, and with favorable weather conditions, the fungus will produce a crop each year.

Fungi and forests - they go together

Three types of fungi live in B.C.'s forests:

Saprophytic fungi break down (rot) dead plants. These fungi are necessary to recycle nutrients in the forest. The morels are thought to be saprophytic fungi.

Parasitic fungi attack live plants causing disease and death of forest organisms.

Mycorrhizal fungi coexist with forest trees. The fungal mycelium, together with the tree roots, forms a mycorrhiza (fungus-root). This network of roots and mycelium increases the surface area through which trees can take up water and nutrients. The mycelium in turn gets nutrition from the tree. Both the trees and the fungi depend upon this partnership for survival. The chanterelle is an example of mycorrhizal fungi. The pine mushroom is suspected to be mycorrhizal, but further study is required to confirm this.

Harvesting wild mushrooms

Mushrooms have been harvested from forests in Europe and Asia for centuries and are still annual crops.

By using proper harvest techniques, you can get the best possible recovery of mushrooms year after year; you can protect the fungus, which produces the mushroom; and, you can protect the site on which it grows.

  • Pick or cut mushrooms one by one.
  • Do not rake or otherwise disturb the forest floor.
  • Pick only the mushrooms you can use. Broken, overmature or wormy mushrooms may still be spreading spores.
  • Do not remove or disturb moss layers where more mushrooms are continuously growing.
  • Check the identity of your mushrooms with an experienced harvester, buyer or biologist.

Mushrooms are a renewable resource. Care taken on mushroom sites today means mushroom crops tomorrow!

WARNING

Any inexperienced collector of mushrooms should consult more than one of the many fine mushroom field guides available to compare species descriptions and contrast with potentially dangerous look alike species.

First-time mushroom collectors should do go with an experienced person, especially when planning to eat what they gather.

Forest protection

Too many forest fires in British Columbia are started by human carelessness.

A discarded match, a burning cigarette butt, or an escaped campfire can cause costly fires which consume thousands of hectares of forest each year.

During the frequent periods of hot, dry weather in British Columbia, the forest fire danger can become very high. At such times it may become essential to impose restrictions on travel, burning, and other activities, including mushroom harvesting in forested areas. Commercial harvesters must comply with industrial forest fire regulations. Check with the local British Columbia Forest Service district office for details.

When traveling to, from, or in the forest always:

  • use your ashtray, especially when driving along forest roads;
  • stop for a smoke break instead of smoking while walking;
  • select your campfire sites carefully and keep campfires as small as possible;
  • attend your campfires at all times and put them out completely before leaving a site; and,
  • obey forest closures for your own safety.

If you spot a forest fire, dial l-800-663-5555. This is a special TOLL FREE provincial forest fire emergency number.

Litter/campsites

  • Respect private property; ask permission to camp
  • Food and garbage attract animals Store food and refuse away from camp. Pack out your waste.
  • All camps must have toilet facilities. All toilet facilities should be greater than 30 metres (100 feet) from any water.
  • Boil water for two minutes before drinking.
  • Use dead or down wood for firewood.
  • Leave your campsite clean, safe and sanitary

Access to mushroom picking areas

Before entering any lands to pick mushrooms in British Columbia, be sure of the ownership of the land and your right to pick mushrooms from that land .

Areas Access
Provincial Forest Lands Mushroom picking permitted
Indian Reserves
Tree Farm Licences
Leased Crown Land
Private Lands
Mushroom picking requires permission
Regional Parks (updated October 2015)
National Parks
Defense Lands
Provincial Parks
Ecological or Special Reserves
Recreation Areas
Mushroom picking not permitted

Personal safety in the forest

If you go to the forest to pick mushrooms, be prepared for changes in weather, rough terrain and uneven footings, dense brush and the wildlife you could meet.

Know how to read maps and use a compass to ensure that when you enter the forest to pick mushrooms, you can safely return to your campsite or vehicle. Accurate maps or aerial photographs are available for a fee. Every mushroom season is marked by lost mushroom harvesters Search and rescue activities cost taxpayers thousands of dollars each year.

First Aid Kit

When travelling on active forest roads, be aware of possible hazards, such as wide loads and construction. Check with local forest companies or Forest Service offices to determine the status of roads.

If you plan to pick mushrooms alone in the forest, ensure someone knows your destination, route of travel, and your planned time of return.

If you plan to pick in a group, stay in touch with one another with calls or whistles.

A first aid kit is a good precaution.

Clothing should be appropriate for the weather and temperature. Expect rapid weather changes. Rain pants and a jacket or poncho may prevent a soaking and possible hypothermia.

Wildlife sightings are usually enjoyable. Be aware of the animals in the forest and how to avoid an unpleasant confrontation. Use extreme caution while picking in grizzly bear country.

For more information

Should you have questions regarding access, fire closures, road restrictions, land ownership, or if you wish to obtain a map of an area, contact the British Columbia Forest Service regional or district office nearest to your area of interest.

Should you wish further information about the commercial harvest of wild mushrooms in British Columbia contact:

Forest Practices Branch
PO Box 9513, Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC
V8W 9C2
General Inquiries: (250) 387-6656
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