Mushroom hunting can be a great and healthy activity for the entire family, and a perfect way to get outside and enjoy the warm weather of spring with the kids. Morel mushrooms are amazingly delicious and fairly easy to identify and children love finding them.
Morels begin in the early spring when the daytime temps are hitting the 50’s and nighttime temps are above 40 degrees. Trees are just starting to bud and the first of the wildflowers, Trillium ( my favorite in the forest ), Phlox, Trout Lily, and Violets are blooming. Ramps ( another favorite spring time edible ) are starting to come up, making bright emerald green patches here and there in the forest.
“Where” to find them isn’t so simple. Black morals start a bit earlier then the white morels and tend to love hardwood forests and they can be found anywhere. When you find one be sure to take a good look around. Many times, if you find one there are more close. They are difficult to spot due to their color so stay low to the ground and scan around you. They will be easier to spot and move slowly. I have lost count how many times I have almost stepped on them they blend in so well.
White morels will appear later, are larger and have a large range of habitats. Forests, fields, orchards ( they love apple trees ) fence rows, islands, railroad tracks and even your yard can hold white morels. Here they seem to love dead and dying elm trees along with sycamore, cottonwood and ash. I find more in the older woods where the trees are larger. As the tree decomposes it provides plenty of food for them so be on the lookout for dead trees with bark falling all around and watch carefully. They can blend in well with the forest floor and are easy to miss at times.
Be sure to properly identify your mushrooms. Thankfully this is rather easy with Morels and you can usually find someone to help you without to many problems. Guide books are also another great resource and if you plan on hunting any mushroom you should have at least one, preferably more. There are also many websites and video’s you can find online to help educate yourself. If you are not sure of the identification please do not eat it. There are mushrooms that can and do kill people.
Proper clothing and tools are also important. Wear jeans and long sleeved lightweight shirts to guard against poison ivy or a T-shirt and sweatshirt so you can easily adjust as needed. Sturdy water proof boots are always a good idea in the springtime and a great way to guard against the muck. Baskets or mesh bags should be used when collection so the spores can fall for future growth. A pocket knife is useful when gathering, letting you collect your mushrooms, not harm the root system and keep dirt out of your basket making cleaning easier.
Mushroom hunters also tend to get lost since most of the time is spent looking down and scanning the forest floor. A compass and whistle ( one for everyone ) can come in handy or if your taking along a cell phone make sure you can bring up Google maps to help get you back on track if needed ( I’ve had to use it more then once…Want to see a worried husband …. have him call and ask where you are when you honestly have no clue ! …. these days, he can track my cell with our home computer just to be safe. )
Word of warning: Hunting for Morels is addictive. Once you find one you will “need” to find more. Please do so responsibly.
Happy Hunting !
Morels Paperback – June 1, 2005
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