Predictions for the 2014 Morel Season

Moreldom is abuzz with talk of a super 2014 morel season. I’ve mentioned before that I usually don’t get involved pondering how good (or bad) an upcoming season may be. The reason is because I can’t do anything about it anyway. We are all at the mercy of Mother Nature and Father Time. Speaking of time, there’s also a lot of discussion about how soon the season will start. The first morel in the mid-continent was found in Georgia on March 9 of 2014. In 2013, it was found on March 1.

One might assume from this that the season will be a week later than last year. That might be true for Georgia. But, in Central Illinois, the 2013 season didn’t start until May 1. In my opinion, we can’t get much later than that. Our rule of thumb is that generally the season starts around April 15 (tax day to mid-May).

I also don’t usually get involved in pondering when the season will start. Mother Nature will get around to making conditions right when she is good and ready. I used to be out in the woods several weeks ahead of the season. I was actually the morel welcoming committee. And, as the season did approach, I probably trampled hundreds of baby morels that weren’t big enough to break through the leaves or moss yet. I guess that I’ve learned patience with age as I no longer feel the need to be there to greet them. And when I do find the first one, I generally leave it be to honor the memory of a departed mushroom hunting buddy. Read more

Morel Mushroom Hunting: When and Where?

Morel mushroom and pine needlesSpring is sprung. The grass is riz’. I wonder where dem mushrooms is. It’s a question mushrooms hunters are often asked. And it’s often asked innocently enough with mixed results. Being “in the business” and with the wonders of the internet, we are probably asked that question more than anyone.

Here are some examples. Do you know of the closest shroomin’ field to Pinellas County? Are there morels in Central Pennsylvania? Could you please advise me when the morels start near Janesville? Again, the queries are innocent enough. Let’s look at them one at a time.

Do you know of the closest shroomin’ field to Pinellas County? First of all, it helps tremendously to know that Pinellas County is in the state of Florida – Tampa area. Morels can be found in Florida, but they are very rare. I personally have never hunted morels there, so I don’t feel qualified to answer. One of the wonders of the Internet is the ease of communications it provides. The “Sightings” page hosted by Morel Mania is a documentation of all the reports we’ve received since 1998. The postings are sorted by state and date. You can get an idea of the approximate time to start looking in your area. We’ve had reports from Lousiana, Alabama, Georgia, and even Hawaii; but not Florida. So the closest shroomin’ field to Pinellas County that I know of is in Tennessee. Read more

Morel Mushroom Hunting: Roots

An internet reader asks, “I here other hunters say if you cut or pinch a mushroom off when you are picking it instead of just pulling it out of the ground, another one will grow in the same spot the next year. Is this true?”

Good question, the answer is no, pulling the mushroom out of the ground will not have any effect on what happens at that spot next year. The hypha (roots) of the mushroom that connects the mushroom to the mycelium (the basic organism that produces morels) will freeze over winter and not be present next year anyway. The mycelium will produce new hypha next year to produce new mushrooms.

Had you asked about what happens this year, the answer would be very different. The hypha grows from the mycelium much the same as a branch of a fruit tree grows from the trunk. It will produce morels along its path in the same way that the branch of the tree produces fruit along its length. Whether you can see them yet or not, the hypha that connects the mushroom you’re ready to pick to the host organism mycelium also connects other mushrooms to the same mycelium. If you destroy the hypha of the mushroom you’re picking, you’re eliminating the means the other mushrooms have of getting nutrients from the mycelium. Read more

And You Thought You Were a Morel Fanatic

JasminePondIt happened several years ago while at the Mansfield, Indiana Mushroom Festival. A man walked up and inspected our display of mushroom items for sale. After a few minutes he stated, “I’ve got the biggest morel you’ve ever seen.” Being in the business we’re in, we always hear mushroom stories and are sometimes skeptical of wild claims such as the one this gentleman was making. And, besides that, we’ve seen some pretty big morels.

I’m sure my response was something similar to, “Really? Where’s it at?”. He said he’d be right back. After a few minutes he returned with who I guessed to be his wife and two daughters. He said, “Well, what do you think?” Being a bit puzzled, I asked him where the big morel was. He leaned down to the older of his daughters and said, “Tell the man your name.” She ever so sweetly said, “Morel.”

Amazed, I asked her to repeat that. And again she said her name was “Morel”. Read more

Cultivated Morels…a timeline

cultivatedshroomsIt never fails, I’m at an expo with my morel wares displayed and an observer states, “The person that figures out how to grow these commercially will sure be rich!” My standard answer is, “Actually, the process has been figured out. But, no one has gotten rich from it.” I then produce a picture or pictures from any number of books on hand that show morels growing in a laboratory. I also then reiterate that no one has yet become wealthy in the process.
Scientific papers documenting attempts at growing morels date back to the late 18th century. But it wasn’t until the early 1980s that things really started to happen. Dr. Ron Ower, of San Francisco, published a paper claiming that he had successfully grown morels. From what I understand, he had a hard time convincing anyone of the veracity of his claim, until a group from Michigan State University and Neogen Corp., both of Lansing, Michigan, invited Ower to prove his claim. Ower was successful and a patent for the process was granted in 1986. However, Ower was murdered during a street crime in San Francisco just prior to the patent being granted. (The murder had nothing to do with his morel research.)  Read more

Goodbye Elm. HELLO MORELS!

My father had six sons (I’m number four). Five of us Nauman boys are avid motorcycle enthusiasts and three of us still call Central Illinois home. Of the three, Larry and Dave both have late model Honda 750 Shadows while my steed is an ancient 1981 Kawasaki KZ1100A. I bought it when it was new. The paint is faded from blue to purple, the seat is torn, it’s needed a new exhaust system for the past ten years, and when we ride I’m asked to be at the tail end of the group because they don’t want to “eat my rust”. Someday, when the budget allows, I’ll restore it rather than replace it because I’ve not seen any ride made since then that I like as much as this one. And it still goes faster than my reaction time so why tempt fate? Had I known it would last this long, I would have taken better care of it.

Cruising in the summer and fall, is one of our favorite pastimes. Winter in not practical and spring is impossible for me because of morel season. We simply take off with no particular place to go and no map needed. “Putting some wind in your hair” is one of the greatest stress reducers I know of. Read more

Mushroom Hunting: Beyond the Dead Elms

In another column we discussed the relationship between morel mushrooms and dead elms. Now let’s think about where else they might be. There are other trees that occasionally produce a good patch. Cottonwoods, either living or deceased can be good places to look. Old apple, peach or pear orchards are reportedly good also. In 1989, shroomers that hunted the bottom lands near the rivers found bumper crops. One family we know literally filled their bathtub.

In Germany, there is a law on the books that makes it illegal to set fire to forests in order to hasten morel mushroom growth. That’s right, any burned area of timber should produce morels. Please don’t torch the woods. If you do, don’t tell the police I told you to. It won’t help this season anyway, check a year or two after the burn.

Time Magazine in 1991 reported morels causing economic problems near Tok, Alaska. I seems there was a forest fire near Tok in 1990 that created an overwhelming crop of morels in June of 1991. The economic problems began because people were either quitting their jobs because they could make more by finding mushrooms and selling them to commercial buyers or those that kept their jobs were hunting mushrooms all night (it’s the land of the Midnight Sun) and falling asleep on the job. What a problem to have! We understand there was a huge burn near Juneau last summer. If one of the bus tour groups wants to organize a trip, I’ll be the first to sign up. Read more

Do Morels Grow?

I finally accomplished a task that had been a goal of mine for several years. And that was to document that morels do, in fact, grow. There are experienced morel hunters that believe morels spring up out of the ground in a matter of seconds or minutes and do not increase in size after that initial emergence from the soil. Their belief stems from being told that morels don’t grow. Or, maybe they’ve even resisted the temptation to pick a morel and left it to grow and nothing happened. I also have left morels to grow and nothing happened. The first morel I photographed for this experiment had withered to almost nothing after five days and never did get any larger. Sometimes I have left them for up to seven days without noticing any growth. And then on the eighth day they have doubled in size! Read more

Mushroom Hunting: Fall Mushrooms and “Road Hunting”

morelyellowI heard a great story last spring and I have to give credit to Conel Rogers from Pike County for relaying to me. There are several known methods of morel hunting. I prefer the “deep woods” method where one packs a lunch, a couple of water bottles, compass, etc. and spends all day on the search. An alternative method is called “Road Hunting” which is looking for appropriate dead elms from the pick-up truck. When one is spotted you stop the truck and go check it out. I can’t condone this method because if the landowner is also a morel hunter you may find the local law enforcement officials waiting for your return to the vehicle. (In one case the vehicle had been towed and its owner had to walk six miles to retrieve it, pay the towing fee, and then appear in court to face criminal trespass charges!).

Conel says the dead elms are rated according to the speed of the vehicle at which the tree can be spotted. A 65 m.p.h. tree is either right next to the road or so obvious to be a prime mushroom site that you can detect it at 65 m.p.h. (What speed limit?) Anyway, the legend goes that a mushroom hunter (it might even have been Conel) brought his pick-up to a screeching halt after spying a 65 m.p.h. tree, and ran over to check it out. Looking down at the ground he realized someone had beat him to the bounty because all he found was mushroom stumps. It was in his disappointment that he noticed a sign stapled to the tree that read: “You are the 34th person to check this tree. Please sign you name at the bottom and add one to the number above”. After laughingly complying with the instructions on the note he returned to the truck and noticed the road had been blackened by skid marks. He didn’t count them but there must have been at least enough for 33 other road hunters. Read more