Wednesday, May 8, 2013

More Than A Morel

After four cold rainy days with night temperatures hovering close to freezing, we didn't hold much hope for new morels.  Boy were we wrong.  No dedicated morel hunter will tell you where they found them but I will give you directions when I am done.  We did manage to collect 22 morels, some of which were large by our standards.  Amazingly, we found some in the middle of a gravel roadbed.

Morels are early saprophytes, digesting tree roots and dead leaves underground.  The mushroom is the "fruit" of the extensive underground mycelium network, popping up in moist soil which has been warmed by the springtime sun.  They are usually the first prized edible mushroom to appear as spring arrives.  Although there some more favored locations such as dying elm trees, ash and cedar trees and recent burns, they can also pop up in the middle of nowhere.  That is part of their charm.

As usual for us, virtually all our finds were under or around ash trees.  The climb up steep hillsides or down valleys to check out a lone ash tree isn't usually rewarded with a mushroom, but the occasional find is always exciting.  Not usually superstitious, I find myself developing little quirks "for luck."  I always close my pocket knife between finds, so the next morels won't be scared and hide.

Twin morels  from the same stalk, ash tree in back
An added benefit of morel hunting is that even if you are skunked, there is a lot to see.  Butterflies are now appearing on warm days, bird migrants are moving through and love is in the air, including drumming woodpeckers, calling toads and prenuptial flight arcs of newly arrived hummingbirds.

While out in the woods we checked the bluebird boxes.  Six of the fifteen had nests with 5 and in one case 6 eggs.  Sunday we found one nest with the chicks all starved to death.  The diagnosis is presumptive as all the other nests were alive and gaping for food.   Also, one of the two black vulture eggs hasn't hatched 9 days after its sibling was delivered.  Nature isn't always pretty.

The highlight of my morel hunting was finding a couple of nice fat morels under an ash tree.  When I bent down to harvest them, a hen turkey flushed out of some shrubs 8 feet away, making the sound of a helicopter taking off on an emergency.  This scared the (insert your favorite expression here) out of me.  My choice word would be the name of a mushroom which we grew on logs several years ago.

I went over to investigate and found a nest with 12 eggs.  One was cracked with a dry leaf over the opening.  I fought the temptation to investigate as mother was off on a distant tree limb and I didn't want to interfere with her parenteral rights.  She is likely to have her hands full if she gets 11 poults out of this.

And now, where you can find the morels next year.  Go to the turkey nest, then 8 feet west to the base of the ash tree.  You are sure to find a couple there.  Please don't tell anyone else about this spot.

Wikipedia on morels
Preserving and cooking morels

"Don't worry, this isn't going to"

1 comment:

  1. your post is very entertaining . ... good luck this season . . . it's been slow here in western pa