Tag Archives: morels

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.

First finds of 2012 – Morels are a month early!

The first mushroom of the season was this morel, found on 4/6/12.

It’s been the strangest spring.  Temperatures here in northern IL soared into the 80’s for weeks in March, and the resident vegetation responded with enthusiasm.  Everything started to bloom – dogwoods, forsythia, lilacs, red buds, crab apples, daffodils, hyacinths and even some tulips.  By April first, the landscape was green and lush.  It looked like mid-May.

Doubting, but hopeful, I looked around.  And found nothing.  Despite all the greenery, the fungi were still holed up.  Initially, I didn’t even see any pheasant backs, and those are seriously fruitful in my area.   Then the weather took a cooler turn, returning to more normal temperatures, which are generally speaking a bit too cool for morels.

Some of our Friday finds, pre-picking.

A friend’s boyfriend has been finding morels down in southern IL, where he has a cabin, and he even brought me a sample (which were delicious!).  However, Illinois is a big state, and the climates at the opposite ends are very different.  However, on Thursday, when he sent word via my friend that his son found morels in Elgin IL, I sprung into action.  Elgin is pretty close by!

My mom is visiting us for Easter, and she loves morels.  I was hoping to Fedex her a shipment last year but I failed to find enough to make it worthwhile.  With the news of the finds in Elgin, however, I made plans to go hunt in some areas where I knew she’d be able to get around safely.

She arrived on Friday afternoon buzzing with news from the Iowa radiowaves – some lucky soul had found 500lbs of morels near Des Monies.   When I told her we were going out to look for some that very day, she was very excited, though I did have to manage her expectations.

The first place we visited – a newly cleared wooded lot near a school, immediately yielded one morel (pictured above) and a lot of hope.  The second location was a total dud.  The third, however, was not!

If you’re into morel hunting, you know the feeling when you find a nice patch.  First one, then another, then – oh look! here are three – and then a few more.  It’s a thrilling feeling!  We gathered about two dozen nice, fresh yellow morels.

A very Good Friday indeed.

We took our finds home, swished them around in salted water and then gently spun them dry in a salad spinner.   We then sliced them in half, and sauteed them in butter, enjoying them straight from the pan, and gracing the top of an asparagus risotto. These gorgeous, buttery, nutty mushrooms were fantastic with the accompanying chardonnay from Hartford Court in Sonoma.   It was the perfect end to a wonderful day!

Sauteed morels atop an asparagus risotto.



Just wow.

A truly monster morel

This season was largely a bust for me.  The good news is that I’m feeling pretty good about next year.  I have a few good habitats staked out for morel hunting in 2012.

I found enough morels to make a couple omelettes but too few for anything more extravagant.  And I spent a lot of time looking in the wrong places.

I found some of the right places last night.  I dumped some spent dirt from one of last year’s plant pots behind the woodpile, and spotted a nice cluster of expired yellows.

It was a nice evening, so I decided to have a tramp through a nearby wood.  Upon leaving, I  roamed around the area I normally walk right by as I enter the forest.  Yup, you guessed it.  Another nice morel patch, with some large, past-due specimens.

I went home empty handed, but full plans for next May.

[2012] It’s Morel Season in the Northern Chicago Suburbs!

The first morel I spotted, near an elm stump.

I took a walk through the wood behind my house tonight, and was thrilled to spot some morels.  I left several, including the one pictured, in the woods to grow for another day or so.  But I know where they are.  I’ll be revisiting the area soon.

And I might sneak out to the woods after work tomorrow. Mostly, I’m just happy that I’ve not forgotten what these look like.

The morels I spotted tonight were on the periphery of the wood, near an elm stump on which some pheasant backs were growing.

Notes:  Temperatures have been hovering in the low 50’s for the last several days, and we’ve had quite a bit of rain.   These mushrooms were found on Wednesday, May 4.  Monday and Tuesday were quite cool, following more moderate temperatures on the weekend.  Today it hit 58 and the morels are just starting to appear.

Other species:

Jack in the Pulpits are up, but small, and only about 8″ high.  This picture was taken on May 1.

Trillium shoots have appeared as well, and are starting to leaf out.

Pheasant backs are everywhere, and I spotted budding fruits almost two weeks ago.

First Real Foray – 2011

No mushrooms today, but my luck is still better than this deer's.

Last week I gained permission to hunt in a wood near my home, and today I went on a recon mission to scout my new mushrooming domain.  And while I found numerous polyporus squamoses (also called pheasant back or dryad’s saddle) just starting to fruit, I saw nary a morel.  I knew that it’s still a bit early, it’s not been quite warm enough.

Polyporus squamosus, just starting to fruit. Common names include Pheasant Back or Dryad's Saddle

That didn’t stop me from toting a couple bags with my in my pockets.  You know.  Just in case.

Despite being shutout today, I’m very excited about my new hunting grounds. The terrain is rolling, and a nice mix of deciduous and conifers, with lots of elm and ash, and lots of trees in various stages of life, death and decay.

A promising section of The Woods.

There are a few oaks, but because the forest I hunt in Wisconsin is primarily oak, I’m happy to have a different environment available to me.

I’m in a bit of a dither, I’ll admit.  Temperatures are going to be spotty this week, between the mid- and high 50’s.  Maybe by the latter part of the week, we’ll see the morels pop.  Fingers crossed!

It’s not time. Not yet.

Reports of morel harvests in southern Illinois have started to roll in, inflaming the imaginations of shroomers in northern climes.

Mayapples. Immature, baby mayapples - weeks away from blooming.

But it’s not time yet.  Not up north.  A good rule of thumb, people say, are mayapple blooms. I spotted these babies last weekend – and we’re weeks away from blooms.

Up here, morels happen in May.

It’s not time.  Not yet.