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Why I hunt
Favorite Morel Book
My Secret Spot
Season Recaps

Morels...  I Love 'em!



Photo of young Elk in velvet Photograph of fawn    Spring is my favorite time of the year.  Just smell the morels! 
To get out in the woods with the smells and soft warm breezes is a pleasure.  We also get plenty of exercise around the hills of northern Michigan, while walking, climbing, bending, hunting and picking spring morels.  I often notice birds that I don't see any other time of year.  Probably because I'm not in the woods as much during summer or winter.
                    I like the experience of walking up on a herd of elk, or spotting the fleeing white tail deer.

photo of wild turkeys     I'm serenaded by wild turkeys.
Their gobbles bounce, echo and tumble down the hills as I search for those gourmet treats to fill my bag.  Even though finding these elusive fungi can be difficult it doesn't dampen the pleasure of a spring time hunt, and a nice walk in the woods with my wife.

     Before we go any further, let me set the record straight.  I am NOT an expert!  Hey it's just me.  Your buddy Frank. But I do know that the correct spelling of these mushrooms is Morel (pronounced MORE-ELL), and not Moral. The first is a mushroom and the second is your ethics, I know the basics and am still learning about the morel.  As far as I am concerned there are two basic types of morels.  Black and Not Black (Thank you Bob and Ken).  Black morels range from dark black to very light brown or tan.  The Not Black morels include white or yellow, gray morels as well as the so called Bigfoots.  Yes, there are many variation and different names for morels, but for the novice, Black and White or Yellow will do.  Keeping it simple is the idea.

  So don't e-mail me with technical jargon or questions on them, because I won't know the big words or the answers.  LOL  I have links to other mycology pages for that stuff!
I'll try to talk in our common language.  You know Hunter speak. 

    I've recently become interested (or hooked), on finding and identifying many more mushrooms, other than just morels.  Believe it or not, my best source for information and help was my own website.  Specifically, the message board area.  I now hunt other various edible mushrooms, summer and fall.  Right up to when the snow flies

    If you would like to learn about some of the other mushrooms to hunt in summer and fall, join the message board.  You'll find very knowledgeable people who are willing to teach and share.

 




When to pick

    Black morel (Morchella Elata) in northern Michigan, usually starts slowly during the last 2 weeks of April.  The best black morel hunting is the the first 2 weeks in May.
For the the yellow morels (Morchella Esculenta) Mothers Day is usually a big weekend. The 2nd and 3rd week of May is usually best for yellow morels.
So come on up and bring Mom! .  .  .  Or at least tell her where you're going.  The blacks start slowing down to almost nothing by the 2nd week of May.  The white or yellow morels start coming on around the second week of May and even last into early June sometimes. 




How To Pick a Morel

    Try to never"pull" a morel from the ground! You'll stand a chance of destroying the mycelium that way and you'll only get about 1/4 inch more of the stem anyway.  Always "CUT" it off with a small knife (or pinch)!  Pinching works well with black morels.  (Pinch, cock the plant a bit, then pinch again.  Works like a charm with black morels.)

    Pinching DOES NOT work very well with white / yellow morels though.  They are meatier and stronger.  Best to cut these. If you pull a morel out with the roots you stand a chance of it never re-growing, as you have just disturbed the mycelium.  Anyway, that is the part of the plant system under the ground that produces the actual morel and is very delicate and easy to kill.  So please .  .  .  . "CUT"--- NOT PULL!




Mesh, Paper or Plastic Bags?

    OK.  Here is where I get into trouble no matter where I stand, but I'll give my opinion anyway.  Why not? I sure get enough e-mail about this subject.  LOL

    Use mesh bags, paper bags or a woven basket.
Paper, mesh or loose woven baskets will allow the mushroom to breath and moisture to escape.  However when using paper bags spores are prevented from falling out as we walk and possibly spreading to new areas.   I have found no definite answer as to whether or not this spreading by spores is true or not.  Morels grow from a web like root system (called Mycelium) underground so some people say it doesn't matter about the spores.  However I'm sure God made the spores for some reason.  What I do if I have to use paper bags for hunting is to go back to the woods and bury the spore laden bag about 3 or 4 inches deep and let nature do it's thing.  It will decompose the brown paper in less than a year and if the spores are going to grow, they will grow there as well as anywhere I assume.  I do not just throw the bags out the car window, using this theory as an excuse, and neither should anyone.

  I don't like using plastic bags.  Why?   Morels have a high moisture content and need to either be kept cool and moist, or allowed to begin the drying process right away.  When morels are placed into plastic bags, I believe they can't breath and moisture can't escape, so they will start to break down (rot) almost immediately!  So now you know why not to use plastic for gathering mushrooms.  I have two very good friends, Bob and Ken, who will disagree with me on this.

    What upsets me much more than seeing someone using a method of holding their mushrooms in a container I personally don't approve of, is litter in the woods.  This is much more of a problem.  Please don't throw away your beer, pop, candy wrappers etc.  in the woods.  Carry out what you carry in (or more).  Don't be lazy about it.

 



Where Do Morels Grow? - How To Find Them

photo of a gray and yellow morels    Explaining where morels grow in Michigan and how to find them, is difficult.  There is no hard and fast rules here either.  They grow where and
when they want to.  I've read and heard that areas with a lot of snow and rich sandy soils are good for morels.  That type of combination seems to work here in northern Mich.

    Black morel habitats includes Ash, Fruit and Aspen trees (also known as: Popple or Poplar) or even lawns and fields
White (yellow) morels especially like Elm, Fruit trees, and Maple.  And in southern Michigan, the Tulip Poplar tree is a good host. 
Learn your trees.

   It sounds like you could expect to find morels growing just about everywhere.  But that's not always the case.  That's why we call it "Hunting".
You just have to get out there and keep hunting until you find one.  Once you have found the first one, you'll find others.  And once you've found a few, you'll start to notice where, when and how.  After that seeps into our fungi shaped brains, it becomes easier to locate this gourmet treat.  When this occurs, you are hooked for life!

    I know you must be a little exasperated by now in your quest to find information on these little buggers.  When I first started searching the Internet a few years ago for information it seemed like nobody wanted to give the "real" information out on how to find them.  Now it seems there are a ton of mushroom sites on the web.  So I understand how you feel.  It drove me crazy too for awhile.  I've only recently begun to find whites (yellow) (other than the occasional ones).
I looked where people said to look, .  .  .  but for me they are just weren't there. [See: The White Morel Hunt ]
Then I started learning to "identify the different trees".  Take it from me, this is all important when scouting a new area to hunt.  Learn your trees.  It's the closest thing to a guarantee you'll ever get, and it sure increases your chances of finding morels, or any other edible mushrooms.

    The truth is friend, none of us truly understand the morel completely.  Even mycology experts are still learning about them.

 

 

 



Why I hunt mushrooms

 Why I hunt, is much more than just finding edible mushrooms.  That's just the prize.
The true reward is being in the woods all spring, summer and fall. 
Being with my wife or friends, walking and seeing everything beautiful in His woods.

In the spring, it's discovering a hidden fawn, or the fluff of woodcock chicks in a nest.
In summer, it's the flight of a high coasting Eagle, chattering of squirrels and yips of the coyotes. 
The low and high notes of the melodious song of a bird I've never seen.
In fall, it's hearing the Elk bugle, or a White-tailed buck grunt as he follows the doe.
The startling flush underfoot of the Ruffed Grouse.  The glide of an early hunting owl.

It may be as simple as a great expansive spider web, covered in sparkling dew.
A single leaf spiraling down, signaling fall.  One snowflake heralding winter soon.

It never ends...

It never will....

 

Climate & Conditions

    In Northern Michigan the right combination of melting snow and rain will produce a "Jim Dandy" crop of morels.  Ground moisture in the spring is critical for morels.  Snow and springs rains are very important.  Too little or too much can cause a bad year.  I've never seen too much yet though.  There is a difference between well watered and saturated soil though.  Morels seldom grow where the ground is soggy.  They like it better well drained, but moist.  Forest fires sites of one or two years ago, old apple, or other fruit, orchards seem to be good spots too.  I've read, that apple pulp from cider mills spread around, will help your chances of growing them in your back yard! Haven't tried that yet.

 


Preserving and Storing Morels


    While wild morels are best used fresh, preserving your bounty is easily done also.  Drying morels is one of the most popular (and I think the best) method of preserving.  Some cook and then freeze them also.  The taste and texture seems to remain more true to the fresh morel flavor when dried, in my opinion. 

Drying morels

  • With a food dehydrator.  Use lowest setting for 24 hours or more. Follow dehydrator instructions.

  • Sun drying. Just put them on a nonmetallic screen and set in the sun for a couple of days or so. Bring them in at night and then back outside the next day.
    Of course this won't work unless it is sunny and warm weather.

  • Air Dry them in the house with a fan running over them.  I used this method for many years before I bought a dehydrator.

  • Oven method. You can place them on a non metallic screen, and put them in the oven, with the door left cracked open about 4 inches.  This lets the moisture escape.  If you have a gas oven, the pilot light is usually enough heat.  I had an electric oven, so I set it to maintain a temperature of 90 to 100 degrees for ten to twenty four hours, depending on moisture content, size and amount of morels.  Use a 'good thermometer' and make sure you never go above 100 degrees! I do not recommend the oven method. It's too easy to "cook" your morels resulting in tough rubbery morels that will not re-hydrate properly. Trust me.  I 'Really' dried some when I first started out! I dried them rock hard in 2 or 3 hours at about 200 degrees.  Turned out tough and tasted like tires.  Lesson learned.

  • Needle and thread. Some folks string them too, with a needle and thread and hang them to dry, and use as needed.  This method seems very time consuming if you have a lot of them, but I guess it does work.

    Whichever method you use, you want them thoroughly dried but still with just the tiniest bit of give when you gently squeeze them.  You can cut your drying time and storage space by half or more, by slicing them length-ways before drying.  It allows the moisture to escape much faster.  I like drying black morels whole, just because I like to stare at them all winter long and dream of spring.  They are So-o-o-o pretty! ~~ sheepish grin ~~

    It take between 8 to 10 pounds of  fresh black morels to equal 1 pound  of dried morels.   Hence the high prices of $120.00 or more, for a pound of dried morels, which will last most folks almost a year.  So it's not really that high of a price.  ($10.00 a month for a taste of heaven!)

 

Storing morels

    I have been storing my dried morels in jars up to 7 years now.  I've read that dried morels should be stored in paper bags and not jars, so they can breath.  (One lady e-mail me saying that she had found a paper bag full of them that she had forgot about for several years.  She cooked them up, and said they were just as good as fresh!) So in a past seasons I tried storing in several different ways (paper bags, canning Jars, vacuum sealed bags, and a small burlap bag) to see what happened.

  • PAPER BAGS
    I've had some in paper bags from May of 2000, and I finished using them 3 years later, in Jan 2003.  They were still just fine.
    I made a 25-morel egg omelet with the last of them.  Mmmmm! But let me tell you, it is darned hard to scramble those tiny morel eggs!) By-the-way, that ended of my paper bag test. I forgot that I was trying to see how long they would keep.  So about two years and eight months for the bag test before it ran out.  Not bad.  Surprised me.  I thought when I started this test that I was going to waste some morels, but I never lost a single one!

  • IN JARS
    I just dried and placed the morels in quart jars.  This is how I have done it that way for several years.  I have kept them up to 7 years so far, this way, and they are still good.

  • VACUUM SEALED in both jars and vacuum bags
    I dried and vacuum packed some with the Foodsaver II, in both canning jars, and in the bags that comes with the saver.  Both ways did well after more than seven years of storing. But I can see no difference between the ones I just placed in jars and the ones I vacuum sealed. Dry is dry. As long as you keep moisture out, they will do fine.

  • Are my stored morels GOOD or BAD?
    If they look like they have tiny spider-web-like strands on them.  Throw them out.  That's mold.
    If they have any dark soft spots.  Throw them out also.  They are starting to rot.
    They should look EXACTLY the same as when you first dried them with NO BLEMISHES.
    Always make sure your morels are healthy before drying and storing.  One 'bad' morel stored with all your good ones can cause spoilage, just like the apple in a barrel.


Cooking & Safety Tips

Caution!
See Identification
Half-free morelBeefsteak Morel can be dangerous.  CLICK for more Make sure your mushrooms are safe to eat. 
If you are not experienced, hunt with someone who is or have them check your mushrooms for you.

    DO NOT
eat any wild mushroom without properly cooking them first.  Regardless of how you use any wild mushrooms, remember cooking is a must [usually 8 to 10 minutes].  Cooking destroys most of the irritants that causes reactions in most people, but not all.  You should not consume alcohol with large amounts of wild mushrooms either.
Alcohol will increase the severity of a reaction should you have one.  Occasionally some people, though few, may have a slight reaction even without drinking any alcohol.  You should not eat them in too large amounts, until you know how you react to them.  ( My reaction has always been to ask for more! :)

    Small kids and elderly people are the most likely to have a reaction.  To test your reaction, you should cook 2 or 3 and eat only a few bites of a mushroom.  Wait two hours and try a few more bites.  If still no reaction, try tomorrow with maybe 5 or 6 morels.  Still no reaction......? Go ahead and enjoy.  :)

NOTE:
    If you don't want to test them as above.  .  .  .  you can always try to get your spouse, brother or niece to try them for you.  I don't recommend this method.  They'll break your heart when they utter awful things such as "Yuck! It's like chewing a tire." - or - "Oh God, Uncle Frank, These things are HORRIBLE!"

No, I don't know why .......  I guess God didn't give everybody functional taste buds as advanced as ours.  How can they NOT like morel mushrooms? If you have an answer to that, let me know.  * LOL *

    My sister-in-law,Annette, pointed out; "If you eat a sizable quantity of any wild mushrooms and have any dizziness, cramping or upset stomach, you should have someone drive you to the hospital and ask for a stomach pump in your size."  Good advice Annette.  It really is best to hunt with a person that knows about wild mushrooms and how to identify them in the field.    There, I've done my duty! .......Come on, don't be afraid....let's go hunting!


My Favorite Recipes:

Recipe #1 - Sautéed in a pan of steak drippings and butter on medium high heat.  Add the seasoning, herbs and garlic as you like and serve with the steak.
Cook about 3 or 4 minutes on each side if cut in half lengthwise, or 8 to 12 minutes if they are whole, and depending on size. (Stir often if cooking them whole.)

Recipe #2 - Just Sauté them as above, without the drippings, in just butter with a little olive oil to keep the butter from burning, salt and pepper at end of cooking. 

Recipe #3 - Sauté about 20 to 30 of coarsely chopped morels in butter with oregano, minced-garlic, wild leeks or onions and chopped green peppers.  Add pepper and salt at the end of cooking.  Remove them from pan.  Beat 3 eggs for your omelet and add the mushrooms and other ingredients, just as the eggs begin to congeal.  Fold and finish cooking your omelet and enjoy with homemade toast.  Mmmmm!

The black morel is my favorite.  I don't use batter or dredge in any dry flour mixture.  They get too crispy that way for my taste.  Morels are as popular here as Truffles in other countries.  Whites just don't have the same woodsy flavor, tho' they DO stand up better in cooking, and are great breaded.  (Maybe I'll change my mind when I start finding more whites, eh?) Getting hungry?



Season Conditions

Caution!

    Please use care in the woods.  The woods are often dry from lack of rain and the fire danger may be high! If you must smoke in the woods, carry a small jar or a 35 mm film canister filled with water.  Use this to put out your cigarette.  Some people say the 'shrooms grow very abundantly around the edges of an area which had burned the previous year or two.  Just make sure that it isn't your fault that it burned in the first place.
Know what I mean Vern .....? Keep Michigan beautiful.  :-)



Past seasons Recaps

I've quit doing the season recaps because of the message board. You can alwys find out how the season is or was in there.

Year 2006 Season
     2006 has shaped up to be a pretty good season so far. Black morels are being found in good quantities in the north and the yellow and grays are being found in southern Michigan as well as some blacks. Right now, 4/28/06, it seems to have slowed down some due to lack of rain. We had a great first part of the spring with good amount of rainfall, but the warm temps and many days of strong winds have dried things out for now. If we get a little rain, get out there. It'll be good picking again!

      No rain the last part of April until around the 10th of May slowed down and pretty much finished the black morel season. But the yellow morels are coming on right now and the grays and yellows seem to be off to a good start. The next couple of weeks from 5/12/06 to the end of May should be OK in the north country.   Good luck to you.


Year 2005 Recap
    Our winter up north this year has been fairly mild through Feb. So maybe we'll have an early year. One can hope anyway.
________
    Well..., March came in like a lion and pretty much stayed that way. Lots of cold and snow in march this year right up until the last 3 or 4 days.
________
April turned our quite warm with above average temperatures but no rain at all until APR 19th. Then we got about 3/4". We did find some tiny blacks on the 16th and again the following weekend on the 23rd.
Things were starting to look good for morels after we got that rain and then....POW!     A heavy snow storm and cold temps. We received a total of about 15 inches over the 23rd and 24th of April! Then cold drizzle over the next 2 or 3 days.

But I am still expecting a decent black morel season as soon as it warms just a little bit. It will probably be a shorter season for the blacks again this year. The first ten days in May is your best bet, for blacks up here in northern Michigan. The white/gray/yellows won't be too far behind them. Good luck to you!

A couple of friends were out on the 27th and 28th of April and found about 700 blacks.
________
May so far (as of the 21st) has been rather cool to downright cold this year. The black season has been so-so. Some are finding in decent numbers and others are having a hard time of it. Debbie and I are kind of in the middle of that. Finding some, (about 8 quarts dried) but with a lot of walking and searching in new areas. The blacks are on there way out now, but the yellows are starting up here. The weather is forecasted to remain cool in the 50's and 60's this next week (May 21st to 228th) That doesn't bode well for a boon year, but there will still be some there to pick.


Year 2004 Recap
    We had plenty snowfall this winter in Gaylord Michigan.  We had plenty of rainfall in the spring.  Unfortunately, we also had plenty of cold temperatures lasting right through June.  I believe this prolonged cold is the reason that the black morels did not produce very well at all this year.  We certainly had enough moisture and things looked good.  But the cold stopped them.

    The yellow/white morels season did better.  It wasn't a great season, but it was pretty good.  However it did seem spotty.  You had to be in the right place at the right time.  The yellow morels lasted well into June this year.  I wonder what the upcoming 2005 season will bring.  Check our Message Board.


Year 2003 Recap
    We had semi-adequate snowfall this winter in Gaylord Michigan.  Nothing major, but just a nice covering of 10" on the ground most of January and up to 24 inches on the ground most of February.  We also had an extremely cold Jan, Feb., Mar, and 1st part of April, with temps down to 35 degrees below zero for nights at a time, even in March! We had three days of moderate daytime temps in the 30's and 40's around March 20th but then right back into the deep freeze.  What we need now is a slow warming trend for spring and we should have a good crop of morels to keep us happy again.

    It is now April 20th and we are starting to see signs of spring at last.  The frogs are singing and the birds winging north.  We've had some mild temps and some rain recently.  A few morels have been reported in north Michigan.  The Black Morels are starting and should be in full swing by the end of the month.  The white/yellow season should kick in by 2nd week in May.  Happy hunting!

    The black morels were slower starting this year.  But when we got some good rain the first few days in May.  Look Out! They came on in full force! We had one of the best morel season in many of years! If you couldn't find morels this year, you must not have been in the woods.  They were good sized ones too.  I've heard that a very cold winter means a good crop of mushrooms.  Maybe there is some truth in that.  The white or yellow morels started doing well by May 13th and continued into June, but I don't think it was as good a season as the blacks were.

Year 2002 Recap
    March this year was our biggest winter month.  We received more snow in March than we did most of the winter it seemed.  It was also a very cold month with temps dipping down as low as -15°! April and May were not much better.  Low's still dipping into the teens as late as May 19th.  More snow and still way below average temps.  Spring never came and it jumped from winter to summer at the end of May.  Seems like that happens when we have a cold spring.  So it was a shortened season in 2002. 

    The Black morel season was almost nonexistent in 2002 due to the extremely cold spring.  The white/yellow morel season did much better in some areas, and saved the season from total disaster.  This year was not the norm.  Folks were finding them where they have never seen them before, and not finding them in the usual places.  Weird weather this spring.  But now we are headed toward this next season!

Check the report archives to see how it went in previous years.

Year 2001 Recap
    The 2001 season got off to a later start.  About two weeks later than the last couple of years.  Winter just didn't want to give up and spring was colder than usual.  The precipitation was about normal (Never enough for us morel hunters though) but the temps were quite cold at times.  We needed warmer days in the 70's for a few days in a row to make things happen, but didn't get that until later in the spring.  We started finding some small black morels the last week in April.  We had a shortened season this year due to the temperatures jumping straight from cool days, into hot summer type days.

    As of May 2nd, we had 3 days in the 80's and nights in the 60's.  Rain on the 3rd and 4th.  Blacks were up and doing quite well then in northern Michigan.

    The White or yellow morels were coming on quite well as of 05/10/01.  The white / yellow morels eluded me again this year.  It's just me, folks.  Don't take my lack of success with the yellows as a prediction of your own hunt.  I did get some, but I just can't seem to find many of the white morel mushrooms.  (Age? They say the eyes are the second thing to go.  :)

    The white (yellow) morel season seemed to go quite well this year for everyone else though.  The last reports of finds were about June 1st.  Most folks had a great year.  I was unable to get out in the woods after May 10th, so I missed out on a bunch!

Year 2000 Recap
    The 2000 season was great in northern Michigan.! As it started out it seemed to be as doomed as the previous season.  We had very little rain after March 2000.  We had 4" of snow on 04/08/00, a light freezing rain on 04/16/00, and finally a decent rain on 04/18/00 ( maybe 1 - 2 inches ) a little bit on 05/01/00 and on 05/07/00.  However the rain we did get must have been timed just right.  The crop of black morels in 2000 was GREAT! I had the most success since I started moreling (1995).  Even without much rain they were very abundant and quite large also.

Year 1999 Recap
    Thank God this Michigan.  Mushroom season is behind us, the picking was very sparse, and the size of the mushrooms were small.  This was due to the lack of rain.  It was extremely dry in northern Michigan this year.

 



My Favorite Morel Book's

A Morel Hunter's Companion by Nancy Smith Weber.book photo of A Morel Hunter's Companion

  A Guide to the True and False Morels.  More than a mere morel hunter's guide.  It also contains chapters on cooking and preserving morels, morel classification, cultivation of morels, and the relationship between weather and morel mushrooms.  Refers to & cites an extensive list of publications on morels and related mushrooms.  208 pages.  70 great COLOR PLATES; tables: glossary; index.  $19.95.
Well worth the price!
I highly recommend this book to new morel hunters, but it is now out of print. Try finding a used one on Ebay or Yahoo. 





National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms
photo of Audubon Society Feild Guide
All mushroomers should have a copy of this book.
It's more important to learn what mushrooms not to eat, than what kinds are good to eat!
More than 700 mushrooms detailed with color photographs and descriptive text, this is the most comprehensive photographic field guide to the mushrooms of North America. The 762 full-color identification photographs show the mushrooms as they appear in natural habitats. Organized visually, the book groups all mushrooms by color and shape to make identification simple and accurate in the field, while the text account for each species includes a detailed physical description, information on edibility, season, habitat, range, look-alikes, alternative names, and facts on edible and poisonous species, uses, and folklore. A supplementary section on cooking and eating wild mushrooms, and illustrations identifying the parts of a mushroom, round out this essential guide.

I don't sell these books. I'm just recommending them.

 





My Secret Spot
Pssst...  Want to know of a spot on State Land, where you can pick a bushel in 3 - 4 hours!
Hardly anybody goes there.  There are so many that we can't use them all.
So I thought I would share with those who view this page.
Click the Red Button
to get the exact location,
and promise not to tell.

Secret spot button.  Click it.


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