Thursday, May 31, 2007


The chanterelles should be showing up in Mid-Missouri in June, usually closer to the end of the month. And as long as it stays moist, they can flush all the way through September in a good season. I find them in mixed hardwoods with lots of oak and hickory. I have noticed no particular associations with trees, but I do tend to find them along low lying dried up creeks and drainages more often then not. If you find one large patch along a stream continue walking down to where any runoff might have settled and you can usually find more patches down stream. To help the novice hunter I thought I would post a few photos from the last few years to differentiate them from their poisonous look-a-likes, the jack-o-lantern mushroom.

A mature common yellow chanterelle

A mature orange smooth chanterelle

Here is a photo of a lone Jack-o-lantern mushroom taken by a friend. Compared to the previous picture It is easy to see how this could be mistaken for a chanterelle. However, if you look close you can see the gills underneath on the Jack-o-lantern. The gills often run down the stem as pictured here.

The undersides of the smooth chant are, well, smooth, hence the name, and easily distinguished from those of the Jack-o-lantern. Chants also have a fruity, almost apricot, sweet smell to them that Jacks do not.

And Jacks grow from rotten/rotting wood. Sometimes this can be old decaying tree roots underground, so always be careful and look close for any buried wood.

Here are some clusters of Jack-o-lanters that I found in the fall of 2005. Notice on the big one how straight the gills are. Chanterelles do not have gills and the ridges often fork or form a "y" pattern. Jack-o-lanters gills do NOT fork.

This photo shows another distinguishing feature of Jacks. They usually grow in large clusters. Chanterelles on the other hand, tend to grow in patches of singles, doubles and triples. I have yet to find a larger cluster of chanterelles.

Here is a group of common yellow chanterelles. Notice they are not so clustered together.

Good luck and please report any of your finds. Always remeber to follow the mushroom hunter's crede "When in doubt, throw it out."

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The End of the Morel Season

Well the season is about over here and unless you want to travel north it's time to take a break from the woods. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that there are no longer morels out there. I am sure there are a few still in good shape. However, they are few and far between and the warmer weather and recents rains have made the undergrowth come to life making the mushrooms hard to see. Not to mention the ticks. In my opinion it is just not worth the trouble this late in the season.

All in all I had a good season again this year, finding just under 1,000 total. I definately found more before the freeze than after by numbers, but probably an equal amount by weight since the late season ones were nice and plump. I will post a few pictures of some nice late season morels soon.

I use some common flowers to determine when to start and stop hunting and these have been pretty good determiners for me. I start the season when the dandelions in my yard bloom and I end the season when the blackberry bushes bloom. I am not sure why, but they seem to be good indicators for my area.

Now don't think you need to wait until next year. There are many other very tasty and easily recognizable mushrooms out there. And since few Mid-MO locals hunt them like they do morels, the only competition are bugs, turtles and deer. (and yes you have to be pretty slow to get beaten out by a turtle, but it has happened to me before).

The MO Department of Conservation has a good website discussing common poisonous and edible mushrooms in MO. I recommend first learning to identify the poisonous mushrooms before moving on to the edibles. Always follow the mushroom hunters rule: WHEN IN DOUBT THROW IT OUT. THere are old hunters and there are bold hunters, but there are no old and bold hunters.

As far as taste goes, I recommend oyster mushrooms when they are in their very fresh button stage. They can generally be found on old elm trees and logs for a few days after a good rain. Other mushrooms that rival morels in taste are the king bolete or porcini, the hen of the woods or maitake, and the chicken of the woods or sulpher shelf. I think the king is the hardest of all to find in Missouri. If you hunt Kings and have any tips, please send them my way. Maitake generally grow at the bottom of oaks and are really good while they are young. They can be chewy when they get older and long in the pore. Chicken of the woods are easily recognizable from their bright orange and yellow. they are usually found on rotting logs but can also be found growing out of cracks and scars in living trees (largely oak). Another tasty mushroom not included on the MDC site are hedgehog or sweet tooths. These are easily identify by the tiny teeth hanging down from the underside instead of gills or pores.

And my favortie mushroom of all (yes that's right morels are not the best tasting mushroom in my humble opinion) is the chanterelle, several varieties of which usually begin emerging in early June. I have found common yellow chants, smooth (orange) chants, and cinnabar (red) chants in many oak hardwood forests in my area. They smell fruity with a light apricot scent when fresh and can be found growing in patches ranging from just a few to incredible numbers. Last year I was hiking in July and found an old dried up patch of smooth chants that must have had over 1,000 mushrooms in a 60 square foot area. I can't wait to go back to it this year. That's another good thing about many summer and fall mushrooms. they tend to grow in the exact same place, so after a few years you go from mushroom hunting to mushroom picking.

If anyone would be interested in summer and fall mushroom hunting please feel free to contact me. I always welcome company and with the abundance of mushrooms there is always plenty to share.