Hunt on for 'perfect' Sask. mushrooms

It's prime time for mushroom pickers in Saskatchewan's northern forests.

It's prime time for mushroom pickers in Saskatchewan's northern forests.

They're busy searching for chanterelles, bright orange mushrooms that are a delicacy in gourmet kitchens all over the world.

Wild Saskatchewan chanterelles are a prized commodity, says Tyler Gray, a B.C.-based mushroom buyer who supplies chefs at some of North America's finest restaurants and gets most of his stock from the La Ronge area.

"The Saskatchewan chanterelle is one of those rare products that is just absolutely perfect," he said. "Anytime a chef sees them, they can't believe that they're real."

While wild mushrooms typically grow in dirt, or under moss, in areas where they tend to get dirty, one of the defining characteristics of Saskatchewan chanterelles is that they're generally quite clean, he said.

Dozens of pickers, like Sandy Wicks, are now at work. For almost 20 years, she and her husband have hunted for chanterelle mushrooms in the forests around White Fox.

Selling mushrooms can help pay the bills, although the market is currently a little soft, she said.

"Last year the market was way better, they paid about $6 a pound," she said. "Right now, it's about $4.75."

However, supply and demand — and the influence of European buyers — could push prices up later this year, she said.

It's not known how long this year's growing season will last, but people in the industry say that with the right growing conditions, the mushroom pickers could be busy until snowfall.