Tuesday 14 May 2019

The Root of the Problem - Cutting vs. Pulling

Morchella snyderii
@M. Kilger

As you've probably noticed, if you have been following along, there is a lot of mythology associated with Morel hunting.

Today, let's address one of the more controversial ones:

To Cut, or Not to Cut

That is the question.

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of other Morel hunters, whose mythology dictates that cutting kills the patch, or to take arms against a sea of misinformation and pull those dirty buggers out of the ground.

In reality, there is a considerable quantity of data which indicate that it doesn't matter how you harvest a mushroom.

In 2005, a team or researchers, comprised of Simon Egli; Martina Peter; Christoph Buser; Werner Stahel; and François Ayer, published a research paper titled "Mushroom picking does not impair future harvests - results of a long-term study in Switzerland".

The data, on which the paper was built, were gathered over a period of approximately 30 years, and demonstrated that neither cutting, not pulling, mushrooms had a deleterious effect on the production of those same mycelia in the following years.

Concurrently, a study in the United States, in the state of Oregon, was being conducted which studied Cantharellus species (Chanterelles), specifically, and also ran for over 30 years. The Chanterelle Project, headed by Lorelei Norvell, published several papers on their research, including this one.

Incidentally, both studies came to the same, independent, conclusions: The greatest detriment, to the mycelia that provide mushrooms, comes in the form of soil compaction caused by trampling. How you harvest, whether by cutting above the soil, cutting below the soil, cutting at the soil, pulling out of the soil with your hand, pulling with your toes, kicking, biting, or a good golf swing - the organism that provided the mushrooms doesn't really care.

It will continue to produce mushrooms at the rate that its environment will support, until it dies, or no longer has the nutrients to provide the energy for that act.

So, no matter how you like to harvest, you do you - just walk gently, and pick up your trash after you.

Of course, if you ask me, you should ALWAYS cut your Morels at least half an inch above the soil. That way, when I'm walking in the area, I can see where you picked mushrooms, and find the ones that you missed.

As a side note, if you decide that pulling is the easiest method for you, I would highly recommend that you trim off the soil-covered base of the stipe, and then brush your mushroom clean (which you should be doing, in any case) before putting in your basket/bag/bucket/whatever.

This has no bearing on the productivity of the mushroom patch, but it certainly makes for less cleaning later, and can avoid having to soak or wash soil off of them.

Happy hunting!

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