It’s January 6 and the temperature is almost fifty in Michigan. When I stepped outside I was transported to trout camp first by the warmth and then the earthy smell of spring. Reality checked my imagination but not my enthusiasm. Spring brings the new trout season, and a backup pastime of Morel Mushroom hunting. Mushroom hunting finishes a close second.
We find the early black morels, and as the season progresses, the half-caps. We (Feral and myself) don’t have a spot for the later white morels but maybe that’s because we’re looking in the wrong place – we keep going back to the black morels areas. It’s vexing to think back to our grandpa opening the trunk of his 65 Chevy Impala and seeing two bushels of white morels. I don’t have a clue where he found the mother lode but it’s possible those days are gone, at least on public land. A good day for us is a few dozen two inch Black Morels to fry up with some trout. And that’s enough. We fry them in butter until they are about 25% of their original size and crispy. People compare the taste of morels to steak, but to me it’s more like eating bacon. Are we frying them too long? I’ve read you need to cook them thoroughly.
If you haven’t tried mushroom hunting here’s a good tip: Look for cars parked along the road in late April and early May. Most everyone expects to see other hunters so you will not be breaking any code. I have read books on morel mushroom habitat and what else I can add has very little value unless you are a naturalist with a degree in botany. Look near Elm and Ash trees, white barked trees like Birch, Poplar, and Aspen, and in evergreens like White Pine. Look where the sun is warming a hillside early in the season, and shaded hillsides late. Alongside water is good including drainage ditches along a road.
If you have never been mushrooming it’s wise to go with an expert the first time. It is encouraging to see someone else find some. If they help you spot some it will be much easier to gain some confidence – they are difficult to see, especially the black ones. And the expert can cull your bag for the false morels, the poisonous variety that can wreck an otherwise nice meal.