Archive for category Morels
A friend of mine’s brother found this huge mushroom in Bucyrus, Missouri just west of Houston. The weight is not known, but it was as big as his head. They are not even sure of what type it is. There is a false morel called a big red morel but this would be a monster. If anyone knows what this mushroom is, please let us all know!!!
Mushroom hunting is a wonderful activity to enjoy with the entire family, young and old alike. Kids generally have an easier time seeing the mushrooms due to the fact that they are a lot closer to the ground than an adult, and if you watch a veteran mushroom hunter in the woods you will notice that they walk through the wood in almost what you could call a crouch. Kind of like Groucho Marx, if you can imagine that! This is because it makes it easier to see the morels against the background of leaves, and if you have ever hunted morels, you know how well they blend in with their surroundings, just look at the above photograph! I always carry a walking stick when out looking, helps you get up and down the hills and you can use it to flip over leaves without bending down. It is also a good idea to carry a compass if you are in unfamiliar territory. As you are wandering about looking at the ground, it is easy to get turned around and the ridges never run in a straight line, so don’t count on them taking you back to your car. Carry a good compass, know how to use it, and you will greatly decrease your chances of getting lost. It is a good idea to also carry a canteen of water with you when you go. You get pretty thirsty walking around in the woods on a warm spring day, and nothing hits the spot like water. I always use an onion sack to collect morels, this helps to spread their spores around as you are looking for them. 10# orange or onion sacks are the best, and when they get full we empty the mushrooms into a sack or cooler at the car or camp, then go back out. If they get too heavy in your sack, the morels on the bottom will get crushed, that is why we use smaller bags to collect with. You need some warm days and nights, with a warm rain tossed in to make the ideal conditions for the morel to start growing. They grow rapidly so one day there may nothing in the woods but the wildlife and you, and a couple of days later your filling your onion sack! I like to hit the hardwood forests in this area. The old woods seem to be the best. Don’t forget the power lines that are cut through stands of hardwoods. You can walk these with ease, and you can really find some at the edges of these areas. Also apple orchards and stands of dead elm seem to give up morels also. The BIG problem is finding these spots! I like to wait for a good warm rain, then if the good Lord is kind, a few nice warm sunny days and then hit the woods hard. The second and third days after a WARM rain is the prime time to hit your favorite spots. This will produce ‘shroom for some time for sure, but I have always done well on those 2nd and 3rd days.
Here is what I have learned over the years finding and picking morels about how to harvest them to assure that there will be some there to pick the next year and many more to come.
I use a knife and cut the mushroom rather than the method of pinching them off at the ground. The ball or “root” that is just underground is the plant and the mushroom you pick is the fruit of the plant. If you take care not to disturb the plant it will produce again, but if you pull it out of the ground it will die and you will not see it produce another morel. This is one of the first things that I tell my groups I take out and I pass out small razor knifes to those who would like to use them.
I always use an mesh bag to collect mushrooms, the mesh allows air to circulate around the morels to keep them fresh and the small pieces fall through the mesh and you seed the woods as you walk. Never use plastic bags, and paper only if you have to. I will take morels back to the car and put them in a paper sack there to hold them until I get home.
Many times you will find morels that have been up for a spell and are starting to turn, these I leave to help “seed” the area. Remember, it takes about 5 years for a morel spore to mature into a mushroom so every little bit helps. When I dump the morels I pick out at home I do so on a sheet of newspaper and collect the small pieces that break off the mushrooms and take them back out into the woods the next time I go out toss them in a good morel producing area to also help seed the woods.
I also will hunt an area one year then skip a year before I go back, sometimes more. This helps prevent over harvesting of an area but on state land there isn’t much that doesn’t get hit hard every year. Most of the places I rotate are deep in the woods and not too many people wander around in there.
by Rocky Clark
- 1 oz. American Spoon Dried Morels
- 2 ½ cups water
- 1 cup American Spoon Wild Rice
- 1 tsp salt
- 5 Tbsp salted butter, cut into pieces
Soak morels in water for 1 hour. (If using dried morels, rehydrate in warm water for about an hour until plump.) Drain off water into a quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in salt and Wild Rice. Bring to a boil, simmer 30-40 minutes. Drain through a strainer and gently stir with two-prong fork. Dice mushrooms in 1/4 inch pieces. In a large sautè pan, heat butter until it foams and turns a light nutty brown. Immediately add the mushroom pieces and toss for 1 minute. Add the cooked rice and toss for 1 minute. Season with a few turns of black pepper from a mill. Place in a casserole and serve.
Variation: Add 2 Tbsp minced scallions, onions or chives with the mushrooms at the time of sautèing.
Morel hunting is an Ozarks tradition that, for most people, swings into high gear sometime around early to mid-April. Besides being a great addition to the dinner table, looking for these tasty treats is a great reason to get outdoors. If you’re looking for a cure for cabin fever or a way to get the family outside, a morel hunt may be the solution.
Morels, like all mushrooms, are the reproductive structures of a fungus. These are not plants. They are fungi, which are unique organisms unto themselves. Mushrooms sprout from a net of microscopic underground fibers called hyphae. Collectively, the hyphae make up the mycelium, the equivalent of the “body” of the fungus organism. The mycelium grows in materials it feeds off of — soil, wood, or decaying matter. This fungal feeding process provides valuable cleanup assistance in nature by helping to decompose rotting logs and other dead vegetative matter in forests. The morel mushrooms that sprout from these fibers carry the spores necessary for the fungus to reproduce.
Morels are found in various locations, but moist forested areas, south-facing slopes and river bottoms are good places to begin looking. (The biggest morels I’ve ever found, which were quite large, were in a location that fit few characteristics of a typical morel site.)
A good thing to take on morel hunts, particularly if you’re new to the activity, is a mushroom identification book. Be sure to keep an eye out for birds and wildflowers, too. Some of the earliest spring wildflowers appear in timbered areas and spring is also a good time to spot a number of bird species in bright courtship colors.
If you’ve never eaten morels before, make your first morel meal a small one. Sometimes, even true morels can make people ill. It’s wise to first find out if morels agree with your system. If they do, it’s time to chow down.
Remember that April 9-10 is Missouri’s youth spring turkey season and April 18-May 8 is the state’s regular spring turkey season. The shooting hours of the youth season are a half-hour before sunrise to sunset and the shooting hours of the regular season are a half-hour before sunrise to 1 p.m. Any mushroom hunting trips you plan should probably be steered clear of those dates and times or to areas where no hunting is taking place.
By Francis Skalicky, Missouri Department of Conservation
Published News-Leader, March 17, 2011