Deep in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, matsutake and other rare mushrooms are prized delicacies — not to mention big business.
I arrive too late. It’s seven o’clock in the morning and already the mushroom pickers have bought their permits and headed up into the surrounding forests. Only a single pickup truck remains in the parking lot. When a man and woman come out of the Forest Service station in Chemult, Oregon, and approach the truck, I introduce myself and tell them I’d like to go out picking with them. The man, a middle-aged Asian with a weathered face, squints, wipes his hand across his brow, then shows me his open palm. “Fifty,” he says.