Edible Mushrooms are Wonderful Things

Those who are lucky enough to grow up in Montana may just be pickers. There are a lot of things that can be picked. Huckleberries are tasty and if you can get them before the bears you are lucky. It takes a whole lot of picking to get a bowl full. There are plenty of places to pick pine nuts.  If you know where to look and timing is right you can pick morel mushrooms. They may be the best prize of all.

For Montana residents who are picking the morel mushrooms for personal use there is a permit they get from district forest offices. The permits are free and mostly used to make sure the pickers are educated about the rules of picking and how to make sure there will always be morel mushrooms to pick in the forests of Montana.

Personal pickers can not collect more than 5 gallons a day and 20 gallons a season. Mushrooms must be cut in half at the time of picking and can not be sold.

Permits are required for everyone over the age of 12, those under 12 years old must be accompanied by a permit holder. There are areas that are closed to any kind of mushroom picking some years.

You can pick mushrooms on your personal property any time. You can not go on someone elses’ property without permission and pick mushrooms. (Some of those Montana boys shoot buckshot and ask questions later!)

Commercial morel mushroom pickers have to pay fees. Some years there are no locations that allow commercial picking. Why are they so stingy with their mushrooms? Mushrooms are not planted. They grow from spores of mature mushrooms. Disturbing the area where the fungi grow and overpicking can kill the area forever. When there are permits available for commercial pickers there are strict guidelines about how many and where they can pick the mushrooms.

In general the lower elevations have mushrooms in early spring and summer. The higher elevations have to wait until snow melt.  There are places where there are mushrooms to pick in September.

So if you want to pick mushrooms in Montana, stop by any forest district office. Get an education and a permit. They ask that you pick only what you need. They request that you do not use shovels or rakes. Break the mushroom stem off at the ground or cut it with a knife.

Pickers protect their special spots just like fishermen protect their fishin’ holes. The rangers should help you get pointed in the right direction.

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