Amusing tale of the intersection between historic food collection and capitalism aka the criminal element.
It is a great French autumnal tradition that furnishes an essential ingredient in some of the nation’s finest dishes. Yet the once tranquil pastime of mushroom hunting has fallen victim to organised crime as city-based gangs descend on the countryside in search of a fungus that brings quick, easy profits.
With professional pickers from France, but also Spain and Romania, gathering ceps, milk-caps, black trumpets and other delicacies worth thousands of euros, forest owners have decided to strike back.
They are planning to introduce mushroom picking licences to regulate an activity that has become a lucrative business, The Times has learnt.
[Click to continue reading Organised crime mushrooms as French fungi trade becomes lucrative – Times Online ]
The old ways of communal sharing are being replaced by quick-get-rich schemes:
landowners had traditionally allowed their neighbors to hunt mushrooms to cook with their omelets, chestnuts or scallops.
“The law says mushrooms belong to the landowner, but the practice was always tolerated so long as it was for family consumption.”
However, over the past couple of years, gangs — notably from Marseilles — have been pillaging woods in southern France and selling their finds on the black market to the restaurant trade and food industry. “An experienced picker can make between €5,000 and €7,000 in a fortnight, which is significant revenue,” said Mr Lauriac.