Its that time of the year! Spring! This is the time to get out, stretch your legs and enjoy nature beginning anew. It is also that time of the year for the food delicacy of the Morel Mushroom!
There are many ways to know if the time is right. My grandmother told me that then the violets pop up and start flowering, other people have told me that it is when the lilacs are beginning to bloom. Really its when we have had at least 2 weeks of non freezing temperatures and have a lot of rain This occurs in late April and early may and lasts only a few weeks. April showers bring May flowers and mushrooms!
I have only been going out for a few years. Before that I had no idea what to look for and how to look. The way my friends explained it to me was that you are looking for a very well camouflaged Mushroom near fallen trees. It is kind of like looking at a magic eye picture, where if you stare long enough, the picture pops out at you. Once you have found one or two you will see them all over the place! As you can see in the pictures above(and this was a close up) you could walk right by it and not see it because the colors of the leaves and mushrooms are so close together.
Since you will be trampling in the woods off the beaten path looking for these delicious morsels you will need a few things since they are not the only plant growing. I personally spray my clothing down with Permethrin because it keeps the ticks and mosquitoes off of me. Permethrin is made out of Chrysanthemums that is made for clothing. This is a great product that lasts 90 days on gear and 6 washings on clothes. So if you are looking for a more natural repellent, this is a good one. http://www.basspro.com/Sawyer-Permethrin-Insect-Repellent-for-Clothing/product/10223263/ Any bug repellent is good though. Wear long pants so you do not have to worry about bushes scratching you since you will be off the beaten path. I wear long sleeved shirts as well and bring a light jacket.
You will need a few things while hunting these tasty morsels. First you will need a mesh bag. This helps the mushrooms drop their spores and drop any insect hitch hiker that tried to come along for the ride. You may see some people who use plastic grocery sacks or canvas bags, this is just not appropriate and some times you may be ticketed or fined from the park depending on their rules. This stops the propagation of the mushrooms and every time someone does this, it makes the mushroom population shrink till it could become non-existent in that area. Always check with the park employees, when you check into the park, about the rules of that area. Even if the parks are in the same state, they all have different rules.
The best way to find Morels is to look off the beaten path. Look for fallen Elm trees, mushrooms love Elm trees. These trees have rough coarse bark who have diagonal lines(possibly intersecting) cut into it, the leaves are oval shaped with saw toothed edges, so if you find a live one, the fallen trees around it are more then likely the same tree, just look at the bark. They will also grow in other dead underbrush and trees but not near as often. I bring a walking stick with me to brush away any leaves while looking in the piles near downed trees.
After you have found your treasure of tasty Morel Mushrooms and get back to your campsite, or home if it was just a day trip, you do have to soak them in a salt water brine for a few hours. I always do it overnight. This gets rid of all the bugs and dirt, which you do not want to eat.
Now you are ready to prepare and eat. I like mine deep fried so I bring my dutch oven and fry basket, my friends mom does it on the stove in their camper. I have also tried them cut up and used in a mix of hamburger for burgers and meatballs(this was to trick the picky eaters into trying them, but darn tasty). The possibilities are endless! This is a great spring time hobby,a great way to get out doors and fun for the whole family. Enjoy!