In France, mushroom wars rage

Gangs are selling stolen fungi on the black market


French champignonLooking for some French champignons for your cheesy mushroom canapés? Here’s some advice: don’t pick them on French soil—you might wind up beaten and bloody, or even shot.

Until recently, property owners in France would generally let their neighbours pick mushrooms for personal use, and anyone could harvest the fungi on public property. But that’s been changing since 2006, when a worldwide shortage caused mushroom prices to soar, and money-hungry gangs started flooding France’s forests. They aggressively steal tons of truffles, ceps and chanterelles, harming ecosystems and robbing forest owners of estimated hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Whereas casual and professional pickers are normally careful to reduce their environmental impact, the gangs damage undergrowth with rakes, harm future harvests by picking underdeveloped mushrooms, and take away truckloads. The problem is at its worst in the south, where people from all over France, Italy and Spain travel to make over $5,000 a week gathering and selling mushrooms to restaurants on the black market. “Some villages only have the forests for income,” says Odile Champion, president of the Société Mycologique de Vaucluse in Avignon. “Forests are sometimes ravaged and owners lose the benefits of their produce.”

And the gangs aren’t peaceful. Spurred by prices of almost $50 a kilogram, they’ve been getting into violent fights with landowners, and residents have reported hearing gunshots. To combat the problem, some municipalities are adopting licence requirements and instituting maximum allowances for daily picking, while many landowners are hiring security guards. The crackdown may prove to be effective against the gangs, but it’s also keeping locals out of the woods. “The restrictions are unpleasant—some of our favourite places are now closed to the public,” says Champion. “Now we find mushrooms around our house, where we aren’t afraid of having our tires slashed.”

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In France, mushroom wars rage

  1. French Fungus Wars ….????!!!!!

  2. Actually most of the mushrooms in question can be found in Canada if you know where to look. The first time I saw fresh chantrelles was at a supermarket in Luxembourg and they were marked as a product of British Columbia! My wife (a french national) has shown me which to pick and in southern and northern ontario we have found chanterelles, morelles (the best short of truffles) bollets, rosee des pres etc. This year we harvested more than 5 kgs. of fresh morelles which normally sell for more than 50 dollars per pound. The only thing we havent found are truffles. Once you taste an omellet made with fresh morels you will never be able to do without them again.

  3. If I had ever wondered why France and most of old Europe doesn't understand Canada; it's because I can't understand them either. Fighting over mushrooms.

  4. no they aren't they are fighting over money

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