11 Images

The Fortune Hunters

Morels are one of about a dozen wild mushrooms harvested in commercial quantities in the United States. (Joshua Paul / For The Times)
Al Rankin readies morels for drying. (Joshua Paul / For The Times)
Many circuit pickers also forage wild crops such as bear grass, salal, moss and fern fronds for florists and seasonal markets. (Joshua Paul / For The Times)
Cambodian picker Vongdeuan Vongmany claims he was surrounded by five black bears while at work. (Joshua Paul / For The Times)
Mexican pickers selling their morels in Tok. (Joshua Paul / For The Times)
Fresh morels are more profitable but harder to handle because they tend to mold and melt. (Joshua Paul / For The Times)
Vuth Ouk, Cambodian picker buying for a Canadian firm, says, “I tell you, this business, you have to kiss [up] to people.” (Joshua Paul / For The Times)
Buyer Jay Southard often carries $100,000 in cash, which is why he is licensed to carry a firearm, and does. (Joshua Paul / For The Times)
Dave, a picker from Oregon, joined Southard as a buyer for Alpine Foragers. (Joshua Paul / For The Times)
A burned forest in Alaska. (Joshua Paul / For The Times)
Millions of acres of forest, much of it around Fairbanks and Tok, were burned in 2004, creating a hospitable environment for morels. (Joshua Paul / For The Times)