Mushroom Madness Sweeps Market
By Ashley Winkler, Staff Writer
The annual outbreak of mushroom madness spread throughout Southern Oregon’s outdoors earlier than usual this year. Hunters began hitting the public and private trails as soon as February, in search of the area’s most seasonally in-demand species: the Morel.
With a variety of different mushrooms native to the area, the harvest changes with the season. The region’s constant supply of mushrooms allows for a large number of buyers and sellers to stay involved in the industry, seasonally and year-round, whether it be for passion or profit.
“It’s just so much fun,” said Andrew Lloyd, a local mushroom hunter, “I really enjoy the hunt. I only sell to family or friends.”
As a result of the rainy winter months, morel mushrooms have been sprouting in large numbers across Southern Oregon contributing to the consumer industry. With prices in the area already hovering between $15 and even as high as $43 dollars per pound.
“One week ago, I was buying 70-pounds in a night,” said Clayton Gillette. “Louie had a couple come in on the weekend with 130-pounds. It’s a business of commodities.”
Gillette, a retired school teacher and SOU alumni, volunteers his time and knowledge to a mushroom buying business called “Mushrooms All Year.” The business picks, buys, and sells hundreds of pounds of mushrooms to restaurants all over the United States as well as brokers, and to the public at local growers markets. Despite a nationwide reach however, owner Louie Jeandin has maintained the same roadside location in Ruch with a small crew, for over ten years.
“There’s a good mix here, of private and public properties,” Gillette said, “We have a lot of private land owners here who pick off their own land, and we also have people who buy permits from the federal government and hunt public land.”
In contrast to year-round buyers like “Mushrooms All Year,” other buyers and sellers only operate seasonally, doing more business on a local level. Medford pawn shop, Oregon Cash Company Inc. bought Morel mushrooms from pickers in the area who were asked to present their permits when necessary, based on the origin of their mushroom harvest. According to the employees, the shop was only able to accept mushrooms for a matter of weeks because of the overwhelming response.
With Southern Oregon embracing Morel season everywhere from the growers markets to pawn shops, Gillette notes the unique financial opportunities at hand for students in the area.
“Picking mushrooms is a great way for any poor, starving college kid to make some extra cash!”
You can find “Mushrooms All Year” online, or at their roadside stand by Café Ruch. Other prospective sellers can also visit the Grants Pass growers market on Saturdays from 9:00-1:00pm, or the Ashland growers market on Tuesdays from 8:30-1:30pm to turn in your mushroom harvest, or even just browse the season’s huge supply of local mushrooms among fellow enthusiasts.