A sure sign of spring
It’s morel season again, if you haven’t been a mushroom hunter in the past, now’s a great time to start. Mushroom hunters will never reveal their secret mushrooming spots, but they'll share how to find them.
Pre-plan your mushrooming trip. When morels are out, so are ticks, use bug repellant. If you are hunting on private property ask permission first. Walk softly and carry a big stick, or at least walk carefully, especially around the base of trees. You’ll use the stick to move leaves and branches out of the way. You’ll be crawling under bushes and around trees, gently moving leaves, to find morels. Bring along an onion bag or other mesh bag to carry your mushrooms. A paper grocery bag works well, too. Don’t use plastic bags. Morels hold moisture and will get slimy inside a plastic bag. Also, morels attract ants, slugs, spiders, and a host of creepy crawlers which will fall through the mesh bag and back to the ground. The mesh will also allow spores to fall onto the ground.
The best mushroom hunting weather is just after it rains on a warm spring day. When you get to a wooded area look for dead or dying elm trees. It’s not difficult to identify an elm tree they look like a child’s drawing; straight trunk with a lollipop top. You can look around poplars but you’ll have better luck with elms. If you aren’t interested in hunting in the woods golf courses and parks are also good spots. Garrett’s found quite a few while golfing. Not because he’s ending up in the rough but because he hunts for them while playing. I would caution that the course probably uses a plethora of chemicals, so be careful.
If you're unsure, or new to mushrooming, your local extension office will happily identify your mushrooms. False morels are dangerous, make sure you haven’t collected any. Here’s a link to help you learn more.
When you get home put your morels in cold, lightly salted water, with a dish on top to help hold them under water. I use clear pie plates to hold them down. We call this “puking” them there 's probably a better term, but it's what we've always called it. Wait a few minutes and all the bugs should be out.
Rinse them, place them on a cookie sheet lined with a dish towel or on a rack so the water drains completely. Now for the good part, you can eat them, dry them, freeze them, or sell them. I think they're best served with beef roast or tossed in a light cream sauce and served over pasta.
A word of warning...Once you start mushrooming you'll be addicted. Morel hunting creates friendly competition. Sometimes it's less than friendly. There are groups of mushroom hunters that comb the timber in our area, without permission. Wearing camouflage, carrying maps, and GPS they're dropped in an area to search for morels. Several hours later they're picked up in a designated location. These professional hunters sell the mushrooms to restaurants and gourmet shops.
Our friend has a special tree where he finds hundreds of morels every spring, it's his secret spot. Someday he'll pass the location on to his children and grand children. For now he's extremely protective. He’s also the best walleye fisherman around, he has a secret spot along the river for that, too. I hope the professionals never find his magic tree. It's wonderful to see his face light up each spring when he recounts his morel yield.