It had to happen: foraging for food is harming the forests. What started out as a simple and appealing way to find local food has become big business.
So many people are out there foraging that there is fear of the environmental impact on the plants and insects that rely on the mushrooms for sustenance.
People get greedy. Instead of just individual foodies picking a few for dinner, now big commercial collectors are taking over. In one popular forest in the UK, forest managers confiscated 100 pounds of mushrooms. In the Epping Forest illegal picking has reached record highs.
According to The Guardian, people have been found with five bags of mushrooms at a time. Many of the fungi found were poisonous. This would indicate that people are just madly collecting for commercial usage; there have already been 20 formal warnings issued this year so far.
As one official said: "We welcome people visiting the forest and admiring the many fascinating shapes, forms and colours the fungi world has to offer, but please leave them there for the next visitor and future generations to enjoy."
The New York Times has noted that now it is not just chefs that are out there looking for exotic foods. New Yorkers are picking over the parks in the city for wild things like American ginger and juneberries.
But the parks can't sustain this, and it leaves the chipmunks without their food. Whereas food foragers used to lead tours of 5 and 6, now they are getting groups as large as 78 signing up and the parks can't take it.
In Queens, one park has been pillaged with even a weeping cherry tree disappearing, along with herbs and flowers. The Chinese are looking for gingko and the Koreans are out for the white wood aster.
In another development, people are doing their own planting in the parks. We are all in favour of planting vegetables in public, unused places but one man who had been doing it for three years found his bean patch uprooted.
Ramp, also known as wild leek, has become a very trendy vegetable. They have a very short season in the spring and have become very popular -- so much so that in Quebec it has been listed as threatened and its sale banned.
Ramp takes five to seven years to produce a seed, and another six to 18 months for the seed to germinate. Demand and relative scarcity have led to prices of up to $12 per pound in some areas.