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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Morel mushrooms should be popping up soon on warm days

Black morels can be hard to see, but they are fun to hunt and great to eat.

It’s getting close to that time, morel mushroom hunting time. Reports from “shroomers” (mushroom hunters) of big finds in Georgia are being posted on morel websites.
One hunter in Indiana posted he found six morels March 23 near Mitchell, IN. He wrote he found them on a south facing slope, a place that usually catches warmer sun rays first.
A fellow in Kentucky near Big South Fork said he found a dozen or so small morels after he did a controlled burn of some land. He indicated had he not burned leaves, he probably never would have seen the mushrooms.
Once or twice, I have found morels at the end of March, but that is rare in Indiana, the earliest I usually find them is in the later part of the first week of April, and I really don’t find any significant numbers until the second week of the month.
Morels are not only dependent upon temperature, they also are significantly impacted by moisture. When there has been a good rain or two followed by warm sunny days, the combination will bring on the mushrooms. They will be found in the south first and move northward. Good picking lasts about three weeks.
READER  EMAIL -- Phil,  I was wondering when to start going to the woods to start looking for mushrooms?The terrain I usually hunt is hilly some creek bottoms. IIs there a certain type of tree they grow around? 
As indicated previously, now is the time to start looking for morels. It may be a bit early, but not too early to start hunting.
What kind of tree should one look around? Different hunters have their favorites. I’m not convinced there is a best tree. It’s where you have confidence in finding them. I never thought one would find them amongst pine trees until I found them there. Then, I started looking under pines more often.
Many hunters have long said, morels can be found around dead elms. That was my dad’s favorite tree location, but finding dead elms can be tough these days.
Any fallen dead tree seems to be a good place to look. Fungi seem to pop up around trees that have been down for a few years.
In general, I have learned that black morels and the long-stem variety are found in deep woods, and white or yellow morels are more likely to be in damper creek bottoms, along the edge of the woods, in apple or other fruit orchards, and in fence rows.
Word of caution -- Don’t eat any mushroom you aren’t sure is safe. The morels are wonderful eating; however, some other types of fungi are poisonous. There are numerous books and internet websites which identify the edible mushrooms. 
There are many types of mushrooms; however, I concentrate on the morels. They are the ones I know best, and I feel confident picking and eating them.
The mushroom books are good, but I highly recommend first time hunters try to get out with an experienced “shroomer” as the hard-core hunters call themselves. An experienced hunter not only can teach you to identify the morels, he or she also can provide tips on how and where to find them. Just don’t ask them for their secret spots.
There are “shroomers” who start picking morels in the south in March and work their way to the deep woods of northern Michigan by late May and into June. Some pay their travel expenses by selling the morels, which in some areas can bring  up to $50 per pound.

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