Buyer raises concerns about sustainability

Local mushroom buyer Butch Sheaves is concerned some newbies to the mushroom trade may be coming in overzealous to cash in and are putting the industry’s sustainability in jeopardy.

“Certain areas are getting hammered to death and the mushrooms aren’t getting a chance to flower out,” he said. “This new crowd has just devastated everything…

We’re going to lose some areas, by the look of it, just from over picking.”

The West Coast’s mushroom season is in full swing and spores of newcomers have arrived eager to join the chanterelle rush.

He said chanterelles should not be picked until they’re at least the size of a quarter but some pickers are bringing in mushrooms closer to the size of a dime.

“We call them baby killers,” he said. “Nobody likes to see that.”

He noted mushrooms are bought by the pound so there is no economic advantage in picking them early rather than letting them grow.

He encourages pickers to rotate through several picking spots to give each spot time to regroup and said mushrooms only need 10-12 days to graduate from too small to perfect.

The mushroom picking industry is largely unregulated and Sheaves suggested a permitting process could potentially help reduce the threat of over picking.

“It would be a way of controlling what devastation is taking place,” he said.

Sheaves also urges pickers not to pull mushrooms out from their roots.

“When you do that it destroys the grounds,” he said. “Cut them at the base and leave the root system in.”

Outside of some pickers potentially violating the industry’s unwritten rules, Sheaves said the local mushroom season has picked up after a slow start and he’s seeing seasoned pickers bringing in an average of 30 pounds a day.

“There are certain areas now that come in late in the year; they’re just starting now and the amount of new growth in some areas is really looking good,” he said. “We’ll get another month out of it here.”