Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Morel Mystery or Marooned by Mushrooms in Minnesota?

In the early part of last summer, Andy and I spent a bit of time poking around in the woods, searching for the elusive morel mushrooms. I was researching an article about fire regeneration, so it made sense to take a gander for the mushrooms while I was out snapping pictures of forest regrowth. Morels are reportedly known to pop up in burnt areas in the two – three year window after a forest fire.

Today marks the three-year anniversary of the Ham Lake Wildfire’s start, which burnt approximately 75,000 acres. In some ways, it hard to believe the traumatic spring of 2007 is three years past. But the forest itself has rebounded beautifully and that means that magical window for morels may be closing. If there were ever morels out there to begin with . . . .

That’s where the debate comes in.

Morels are definitely to be found in the southern reaches of Minnesota. Andy and I talked to some fellow morel mushroom hunters yesterday and they said morels were popping up all over the place in Indiana last week. The old timers swear they used to find morels up here. I believe “trash bags” was used as a unit of measurement. But the old timers are also stingy on details and they’re not saying where exactly they found enough morels to fill trash bags.

Last year Andy and I searched and searched. We looked in places where people had hinted at finding morels in the past. We look on high ground, we look on low ground. We look under burnt logs, around tree trunks. All we ever came across were false morels.
These brain-resembling mushrooms are fun to come across (and as amateur mushroom hunters, whenever we stumbled upon some we would assure each other that “we must be on the right track”) but the mushrooms aren’t good eating. I don’t think they’re poisonous, per se, but I also don’t think you’d feel really great if you sautéed them up in garlic butter and tossed them in pasta. Andy maintains that the only place he’s ever seen morels was at Pike’s Place Market in Seattle, where they sold for about $40 per pound.

So the hunt continues.

We set out on Sunday afternoon and found some bitty false morels.


We also found a ton of flowering blueberry bushes. That’s the beautiful of searching for something elusive: you never know what extraordinary thing you might find instead.












We did some good news on the morel front over the last 24 hours though.

Rain!

Mushrooms are known to spring up after a rainfall so there could be some morels lurking out in the newly hydrated forest right now.

Now the trick is to find time to hunt for them. I spent the better part of the day in the car, driving around to interviews. The upside is that I got some great material for a couple projects I’m working on. However, I’m far too road weary for any great mushroom quest. Perhaps I’ll settle for a nice cup of tea.

2 comments:

  1. I've never been morel hunting before. Now I know what to do with our kids the next time we go to a cabin. They'd love the search + I'd love the find.

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  2. What a cool post. I have to admit, I have neither been hunting or really even knew much about them. So thanks, I feel like I learned so much.

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