Local co-op seeking all kinds of mushrooms as season gets underway

  • Sep. 6, 2010 5:00 p.m.

By Heather Ramsay-Mushrooms are popping and pickers are hopping as the season gets underway for the Haida Gwaii Culinary Co-op. This year the co-op is looking to buy, not only the golden trumpet-shaped chanterelles, but boletes, hedgehogs, blewits, blue chanterelles, pines, shaggy manes and more, says new products researcher Lana Wilhelm. The focus is on the fresh chanterelle market, but the co-op wants to experiment with other products in its unique microwave dryers this year as well, she said. “We’ve had some very exciting results,” she said of the potential new products. Oyster mushrooms dry wonderfully, for example. The co-op has also been experimenting with things like seaweed, berry species, local herbs and potatoes. But before any new products can be released, a lot of work must be done. Not only do they have to ensure the product tastes good and reconstitutes well, but that they have potential markets and the support of the local community. Kiku Dhanwant, marketing coordinator, said adding value to local products and developing the economy that way is the co-op’s goal, but “it’s important that the local people are comfortable with the commercialization of different products.” “The point is that our way of life is connected to the land,” she said. That’s why it is so important to keep up communication with local governments, band councils and the Council of the Haida Nation, to ensure the co-op is consistent with what these bodies are trying to do. “We are there as a vehicle for the community,” she said. But they need the support of businesses and others to make a go of it. Meanwhile the fresh chanterelle market is where it’s at for the fall season. Ms Dhanwant said the co-op has received great feedback from their dedicated clients and is expecting a good mushroom season. The fires and weather patterns in other areas may ensure the supplies are low, she says, which will help keep the prices up for local pickers. On Haida Gwaii, the wet spring and warm summer, with more fall wet weather, indicate a good crop may be in store. She said the mushroom industry is very competitive and the co-op is continuing to seek out specialized markets for wild mushrooms. “So we can get a good price for the pickers,” she said. The co-op plans to have buying stations open seven days a week in Queen Charlotte and weather and market-dependent stations in Port Clements and at Skidegate Lake. In other co-op news, Mary Lou Schroeder has taken over the manager’s role at the facility. She brings many years of administrative and bookkeeping experience to the position and is committed to local food.