VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Chefs and restaurants across the Lower Mainland were treated to a bumper crop of wild morel mushrooms last spring, all because of a big wildfire season the year before. But even with a record number of fires last year, the harvest has been sparse.
True morels, or morchellas, which thrive in blackened earth are a multi-million-dollar industry in North America and they can shape a locally-sourced menu. But this year, it’s just been too dry, says the Vancouver Mycological Society‘s Paul Kroeger.
“It looks like the morel season might not be as bountiful as we’d hoped because of the dry conditions and windy conditions,” he says, and for chefs it could make the mushrooms more expensive.
Studies, including one published in October 2016 in the online magazine Forest Ecology and Management, confirm bumper crops of lucrative, morel mushrooms can almost always be found a year after a major wildfire. But maybe not this year.
“We should be producing morels in the burn sites. Unfortunately, we’ve seen an extraordinarily dry introduction to May and habitats are looking awfully dry. In the Fraser Canyon area, things were very dry. We found a few morels in extremely moist, in what would normally be moist habitat,” he says.
“Moisture is key to initiating and completing the growth of the morels, the fruit body of the morels,” Kroeger adds. “Unfortunately, a lot of the burned areas with the exposed, dry forest habitat have already this year been severely dehydrated.”
But he says there is still enough time left that a few days of heavy rain could salvage the season.
The mushrooms are often sold dried in grocery stores or fresh at farmers markets and are renowned for their earthy flavour. Last year was one of the best on record for morel pickers.
With files from the Canadian Press.