Fantastic Fungi: Morel Madness is Underway

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

IMG_1749

The hunt for elusive morel mushrooms is underway. With a bit of knowledge, and the willingness to walk slowly while scanning the forest floor, your gourmet reward of fantastic fungi might just be sizzling in a frying pan before the lilacs bloom.

Safety First:  If you are not 100% certain you actually found a morel mushroom, don’t eat it. That is just common sense. A Facebook posting may not be the best way to make a positive identification. Morel mushrooms vary in size, color and sometimes shape.  And of course never mix different kinds of mushrooms in your collection bag.  Michigan State University Extension has identified at least 50 types of poisonous mushrooms found in Michigan, among them the false morels.

IMG_2619

Morel cut open to show the hollow inside.

False morels can and do fool novice morel hunters, and at times, self-proclaimed pros. Mushrooms of the Upper Midwest, by Teresa Marrone and Kathy Yerich, is an excellent beginner-friendly mushroom guide, with high quality photographs, detailed information on morels and false morels and other common mushrooms of the Midwest.  However the best bet is to forage with someone who really knows our most sought-after wild mushrooms, and then hunt the morels in their company.

Morel mushrooms lure me to the woods every May.  Usually, the lilacs of our county bloom the same time that morels emerge.  Not so this year. Morels are ahead of the lilacs this spring, a reminder that morels are unpredictable in where they grow from year to year, and when they emerge.  Last spring I searched one of my secret morel habitats within the Ortonville State Recreation Area for two hours, without a single morel to be found.  A few minutes after getting home I noticed ‘something’ at the edge of my lawn, within the shadow of my porch.  The next morning those delicious morels were frying in butter, and then added to an omelet.

IMG_0334

 

So where does one look?  Anywhere, and everywhere in the woods might be the short answer.  Many foragers guard their secrets fiercely, but morels seem to appear most often near trees that recently died, especially at the edge of fields.  My “lawn morels” emerged where an old apple tree came down in a windstorm three years ago.  I have found morels in wood chip piles, under ash and elm trees, in fallow field near fruit trees and even along the sunny edge of a local, very popular well-trodden trail.  And if you find one morel, more are likely nearby.

And here’s a tip from Jim Fisher, the resource protection manger for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, “Morel mushrooms are often found in locations where large fires occurred the previous year.”

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has an  interactive map, MI-Morels, to help identify possible morel locations due to sites of large fires and other factors.

Happy hunting!

IMG_1755

 

Jonathan Schechter is the Nature Education Writer for Oakland County Government and blogs weekly about nature’s way, trails, and wildlife on the Wilder Side of Oakland County.

For the latest county news and events, use #OaklandCounty on our Facebook,Twitter,Instagram and LinkedIn pages or visit our website.

3 thoughts on “Fantastic Fungi: Morel Madness is Underway

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s