Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Mushroom Hunter's Tools: The Flat Bottom Basket

The Mushroom Hunter's Tools segment explores some common (and not so common) tools of the hobby. In this post we will take a look at one of the most basic tools in a hunter's tool belt - the flat bottom basket.

So you are romping through the woods and stumble upon the mother load of mushroom finds. After inspecting some individuals closely you find that they are none other than yellow morels. Great! . . . but how do you carry your lucky find home? Most seasoned mushroom hunters will agree that a flat bottomed basket is the container of choice. What's more, many hunters will, over time, become attached to their basket. The basket becomes more than just "what they carry mushrooms with" and becomes more symbolic - kind of like the knight's sword, so to speak. But enough of that hokey stuff . . .

So why do mushroom hunters like baskets so much?

  • They are light, which can be a real boon when hiking during the late summer months.
  • The are cheap - even the nicest basket will cost less than $10 and can be found at most hobby and craft stores.
  • They can be easily replaced if they are damaged. (Se the above reason ;p)
  • Their realitively open construction allows the mushrooms to breathe. This becomes extremely important when dealing with species that quickly decompose.

So what should the potential MH look for when choosing his Excalibur? Here are some things that both Travis and I look for in a basket:
  • A wide and (obviously) flat bottom. This will allow you to keep many more specimens without having to stack them uneccisarily. Also, having a flat bottom will minimize rolling around. This can be a big help when heavy hiking can potentially mix specimens up.
  • Sides that are at least 8'' tall. This will keep your find inside while keeping the overall size of the basket down.
  • A short to medium sized handle. While those huge looping handles may be good for Easter baskets, a novice MH will soon realize that carrying your finds so low to the ground can be a real pain. Especially when an errant root or rock decides to trip you up!
  • A non-solid make (like woven wicker) makes an ideal material for a MH's basket. This will allow the specimens to "breathe" while also allowing small particles of dirt and leaves pass through the cracks. A basket of solid make can prove hard to clean indeed!
  • A basket that is separated into 2 or more sections can prove useful when trying to separate different species. This is especially important when trying new species/identifications for the first time.*
  • A matter of personal taste: Personally I prefer a basket without a hinged handle (read as picnic basket). Others, however, may find hinged handles easier to deal with while hunting.
As you can probably tell, I believe that the image above is an example of a perfect basket. Of course, you may find that you prefer different features, or even a different medium altogether. If you have any tips or suggestions for holding your finds feel free to post a comment below and tell us about them!

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