Tag Archives: morel mushrooms 2013

Late Season Leviathans

IMG_9733Hunting morels is often a fruitless endeavor.  For every picture I’ve posted,  there are probably two or three fruitless forays, at least.  But the hunt gets a bit easier toward the end of the season, when the mushrooms are bigger.  Much bigger.

IMG_9738On Friday afternoon, I shut down my work computer and bolted into the woods. It was a nice evening, and conditions were promising – we’d had some decent rain, and warm temperatures, and it was getting late in the season.  I knew that if they were out there, I’d spot them, and I was right.

For a few moments, it was easy.  The late season leviathans towered (for morels) four, five and six inches above the forest floor,  and they were illuminated like Chinese lanterns by the slanting afternoon sun.

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These giants are thrilling to spot, and I was in a productive area of the forest.  I filled my bag half-full. I did leave a few behind, to help ensure the propagation of the mycelium for the future.

The big morels are drier and, in my opinion, a bit past their prime.  They’re not as perfectly fresh and dense as they are when they’re a bit smaller.  For sauteeing with a steak, or popping into a risotto, I prefer early-season morels.  However, the late-season giants are great for dehydrating, and also work well coated with cracker crumbs or panko and fried.

This particular haul was immediately cleaned and dried. I’m going to send them off to my brother, who lives in Arizona, and who hasn’t seen a Midwest morel for a long time.

While things are about spent here in Illinois, I’m going to take a look around some woods up in Wisconsin, where I keep my retired horse, tomorrow.   Then that should be it for a few weeks. Next up are chicken of the woods and oysters, which I’ve never found in the summer but I’m told are relatively common.  We’ll see!

 

Look up before you look down

morel 2We’ve had a nice spell of warm weather, and a good rain last night which bodes well for the still very small morels in the woods near my house.   I took a quick look this morning, and found that the mushrooms in the spots I’ve been eyeing are still too small for picking. I’m taking my chances, and giving them a few more days. 

In particular,  I’m excited by a nice fruiting I’ve found under a newly dead elm.   I spotted the tree earlier this spring, and when I visited it a week ago, sure enough, there were some dinky morels just starting to pop. 

I found that tree when I happened to look up from the forest floor, and scanned the tree tops.  It was easy to spot the dead tree. 

morel 1The voice of a departed way-too-soon friend, Mark, popped into my head.  He told me last year that he looks for trees just starting to shed their bark. Those are about perfect, he told me.  

The dead tree I had spotted showed a few bare patches.  And sure enough, there are the morels.  

So now I’m sure to look up before looking down.  And each time I do, I say a quick thanks to my friend, who I am sure is looking down on me and my fellow woodland trampers, quietly guiding us to those elusive morels. 

Do you see what I see?

Look closely.

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Did you find all three?

They’re about the size of a grape. A skinny grape.  Maybe they’ll be ready this weekend, but I think that will be pushing it.  They’re awfully small.  Research suggests that another 6 days or so are needed.

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It’s Not Quite Time for Morels Yet …

Don’t get too excited. This photo was taken last year.

We’ve had a stretch of weather that seems ideal for morel mushroom fruiting here in Northern Illinois, and I took a quick look around a couple patches close to my home today.

I think we have a few more weeks to wait, for a few reasons, despite the seemingly ideal conditions:

–  The springtime flora seem to be getting off to a slow start.  Mayapples are barely out of the ground, same with Trillium.  I’ve not even seen a Jack in the Pulpit.   In my experience, morels show up when these plants are well underway in their growth.  To see what I mean, look at my post from 2011, which documents my first morel finds, as well as the growth stages of other springtime woodland plants.

– No pheasantback fungi to be seen anywhere.   By the time the morels are fruiting, pheasantbacks are well established and about the size of a saucer.  In my tramp through some elm woods that are host to many pheasantbacks, I didn’t even see an emergent bud of this widepread mushroom.

– Evenings have still been pretty cool. I don’t think the ground has warmed up sufficiently yet.

– No one else has found any in this area, either.  I’ve been checking various morel progression maps and the closest find so far this year was in Springfield.  Hundreds of miles south of me.

So, there you go.  Temperatures are set to dip again and stay cool for a while toward the end of this week.  My bet is that it will be a good couple weeks before we see morels in northern Illinois.

Update 5.2 – I went out this morning and took my time looking around a few good spots.  Finally saw a pheasant back bud but no morels.  With the cold weather that’s coming in today, I think we’re at least a week away.