Alaska's forest fires spark hopes of a mushroom bonanza

The furious fires that devastated millions of acres of forest in Alaska last summer may be about to deliver an unexpected harvest. Ecologists say the state's scorched lands will soon be quivering with morel mushrooms, prized by chefs around the globe.

Never mind the state's history of gold rush, fur rush and oil rush. This is shaping up to be the year of the "shroom boom" or mushroom rush. "That is what we're hoping," said Jay Moore of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Co-operative Extension Service. "It really depends on environmental factors." But what scientists do know is that where fire has scorched the earth, morels are likely to spring up. The hotter the fire and the more soot and ash there is on the ground, the more plentiful the morels. It is a happy consequence of a most unhappy season last year when wildfires consumed 6.5 million acres of forests, and state officials are hoping a plethora of morels will offer financial relief to the region's inhabitants.

As temperatures climb, the push is on to get everyone prepared. Mr Moore is setting up workshops to help potential pickers on how to proceed and the state government is pitching in with guidance on how to harvest the mushrooms. Because they are such a delicacy, especially in French cooking, the demand for morels is enormous. They are also notoriously difficult to cultivate on farms.

For that reason they can fetch as much as £53 a pound (450 grams). In New York, fans of good gastronomy will pay about £9for just two ounces of the fungus flesh (57g).

There is a lot to learn for would-be morel hunters becausethey are unlike other mushrooms in many ways. First, the must identify them correctly. They are usually conical in shape, resemble a sea sponge, with many ridges and pits, and are hollow and extremely fragile.

And just where in the charred forests they will spring up is anyone's guess, said Tish Wurtz, an ecologist. These, in other words, are tricky mushrooms. Unlike other fungi, they do not grow on decaying vegetation, but more often on open patches of ash-covered terrain. There are so many different kinds of fungi growing in Alaska that some have not even been named. Picking the wrong kinds of mushrooms could, of course, lead to stomach pain or worse. The effects on health can be quite severe

Michael Kuo, also of the University of Alaska, has issued guidelines to anyone heading to the woods. His simple rule of thumb was: "When in doubt, throw it out," he said. A red tinge to the flesh is a certain sign of trouble. "If it ain't hollow, don't swallow," he added.

Morels grow across most of America's northern states and are honoured by spring festivals in many. But if the forecasts of morel-mania in Alaska are true, the rush may soon be on to catch a plane, mushroom basket in hand, to Fairbanks.

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
people
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

EBD Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Science Teacher Greater Manchester

Humanities Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Humanities teacher required for ...

English Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: ENGLISH TEACHER REQUIRED - Humbe...

Chemistry Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: We are looking for a Qualified C...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits