For my family, in Kentucky, springtime means two things–trout fishing & mushroom hunting. Often referred to as dry land fish (because of the shape when viewed from the side), morel mushrooms begin popping up mid-late April & end early May. I’ve been hunting them since childhood, when my dad would announce that mushrooms were probably up & it was time to go dry land fishing. We would take to the woods–a group of adults & lots of little ones. Dad would remind us to watch where we stepped, lead us to poplar trees & when he bent down & plucked something from the earth, we all came running, too excited to remember to watch where our feet landed. Many times I stood, in the middle of the woods, thinking ‘God, why can’t they be purple or blue?’. My eyes could not see them & I had not yet developed the patience to search for the elusive morel.
My how things change.
Over the years, I kept going mushroom hunting with Dad. He taught me how to identify a poplar tree, took me to his secret mushroom spots, places where he had found oodles in the past. We discovered new spots together & still every time he bent down to pluck one from the earth, I had to resist the urge to break into a full run to see what he had found. The most important thing I’ve learned from my Dad about searching for the morel is that you can’t be in a hurry. I’ve learned a wealth of other important information, too: Look near sycamore trees & poplars. Search old apple orchards. Begin searching in mid-late April after a rain & then a few warm days in a row. Never eat a morel with a ‘cottony’ stem (This is the ‘False Morel’, which is poisonous. ‘True Morels’ have hollow stems.) Pinch mushrooms off at the bottom. Conceal your mushroom bag until you get in the woods! And never reveal your good mushroom spots. But most importantly, take your time, look in a spot two or three times. Move slowly & cautiously. Enjoy the hunt as well as the finding. And if you find a lot, share them with someone you love!
Last night’s findings–My husband & I found 106! We were ecstatic.
Mushroom tip: Always carry your mushrooms in a mesh bag so the spores can fall as you walk! A couple of years down the road, you’ll be happy you did!