Monday, March 31, 2008

Who will be the first?

I thought I would have a little competition for bragging rights mainly, but lets see who among the readers of this tiny little blog are the first in the area to find a morel. Now I am not a stickler for rules, and generally take people at their word, but if you can take a picture of your find that would be much appreciated.

I wonder if anyone in Central MO will be able to beat me to the punch this year. I'd expect some of the folks down in Jefferson City or to the south may have an advantage as they usually show up there about a day before I find them around Columbia.

You can either post a comment about your find or email me with your picture and I will post them for you. Good luck and happy hunting.

Morel Fever

I know everyone is just itching to get out in the woods. Reports of blacks are streaming in from Cape Girardeau to Branson to Springfield and many parts in between.

I myself fell prey over the weekend and just had to get out to some of my patches to see what things looked like. I was relieved to see that there were no signs of recent flooding and that things by and large looked normal. however upon closer inspection I noticed the signs of last summer's deluge. Waterlines on trees were a good foot above my head meaning most of the area was under at least 7 foot of water. You can tell by looking at the undergrowth that was just starting to come in. It was not near as heavy as in the past and there were also signs of erosion mainluy around roots of trees within 50 feet of the bank. So there was some definite damage last year, the question is how will this effect the upcoming season. Theories suggest that it could either hurt production or even increase production, but only time will tell.

The undergrowth was just starting. Stinging nettle was only about an inch tall. There are still no leaves on any trees and only a few varieties of trees were even budding. I'd say it's still 7 to 10 days away depending on the weather. This slowly warming but very wet spring could mean a really good and long season like we haven't seen in a while. The past four years, the season has been cut short by warm spells (several days in the 90s) and by the late freeze last year. It would be nice to have a traditional season that lasts well into May for a change. that's when you can find the beer can morels by the bagful.

In the meantime, here are some goo online resources to keep you busy.

Well-known mycologist, Tom Volk, has a great article explaining the ins and outs of the Morel Life Cycle.

An article on growing black morels: Cropping the French Black Morel

Here are a few research studies examining morel picking in the northwest U.S. and parts of British Columbia. They provide some insights into the competition among western pickers and buyers as well as some insights into morel growth patterns. A little long but well worth reading.

Commercial Morel Harvesters and Buyers in Western Montana: An Exploratory Study of the 2001 Harvesting Season

Ecology and Management of Morels Harvested From the Forests of Western North America

The Ecology and Economy of Morels in British Columbia's East Kootenay

Monday, March 24, 2008

Missouri Morel Reports

Reports of finds are trickling in from southern Missouri over the weekend. It's been cold but I guess the mushrooms don't know it because they are slowly marching north despite yesterday's flurries. Many people doubt these early reports because they are so early, but I tend to take them as truth. Morels are right on schedule for the southern and south central parts of the state.

In Mid-MO I have found my first morels on April 1 the last three years. In 2004, I found them on April 8, but I found a patch of 7 beer can sized yellows that same day. I know they had to be up a good week to get that big, so I reckon they were up by April 1 if not sooner that year as well.

So, it's time to be hitting your early areas and looking for places with good sun exposure because they tend to warm up first. Even if these early forays don't turn up any morels they are good for stretching the legs and getting ready for the long walks in the weeks ahead.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Douse and Dry - Rain, Floods, and Morels

A few people have asked me about the effects of the recent rains on the upcoming morel season and I can only say that it can't hurt. When it comes to morels, it is hard to say we are getting too much rain.

That is unless you are hunting the river and creek bottoms and your favorite patches are flooded. Flooding can be a problem for morel hunters but usually it is a blessing. Now the big floods of say 1993 and 1995, they did have an effect on morel production. They occurred later in summer and it was very hard to find even a single morel growing the following springs in the flooded zones. I believe that the layer of mud and silt they left behind either smothered or somehow adversely effected the mycelium which accounted for the lack of mushrooms. It only took a year though for them to start showing up again. As they returned and were found in the spring of 95 and 97. Keep in mind this was only based on my experiences. If any old timers out there were finding morels in the flooded zones in the spring of 94 and 96, let me know, I'd be interested in hearing the details.

There was a smaller flood last summer, but the water didn't get near quite as high as it did in 93 and 95, nor did the flood waters remain in place as long which may have drowned the mycelium. Last year's flood at least along most parts of the Missouri only lasted 5-10 days and left a thin inch or two layer of silt. Since it happened early in the summer, the woods have seemed to recuperated just fine and you can hardly tell where the flooding occurred walking through there today. So, I don't think it will have too much effect.

As for any flooding that occurred in the past few days, it can only be good. In fact, many argue that it is exactly that sort of soaking that really kicks the mycelium into producing primordial (or tiny mushrooms) which eventually grow to become the morels that we pick. In fact, Michael Kuo, in his book Morels, describes a similar effect at the Dan Reservoir in Israel (p.142).

Never heard of the Dan Reservoir before? Well if you are a morel hunter you won't soon forget it, because if your hard up to hunt in late summer or fall it is the place to go. Morels can be found there 9 months out of the year. Kuo documents reports from the reservoir illustrating that the discharge of the main spring floods the smaller channels each year. As the water recedes and the riverbanks begin to dry, morels appear on the exposed banks. As the waterline recedes more exposing more riverbank more morels would pop up hence allowing one to hunt for the nine months that the waterline steadily drops (May through Mid-January). The remaining months the riverbank is underwater and no morels can be found.

Of course this is mere observation and speculation and there really isn't any true scientific research dedicated to the "douse and dry" prorogation of morels. However, from my own experience, I have found morels growing along the banks of the Missouri within inches of the water and well below the waterline from only weeks before. So, if your prime honey hole got flooded recently, I highly recommend keeping a close eye on it as the season fires up. It could produce a flood of morels.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Little Poetry

Now normally you won't find poetry in here so don't worry, but someone gave me this poem about mushrooms today by Margeret Atwood and with the stormy weather it seemed pretty fitting especially with morel season just a few weeks away.


In the moist Season,
mist of the lake and thunder
afternoons in the distance

they ooze up through the earth
during the night,
like bubbles, like tiny
bright red balloons
filling with water;
a sound grew below sound, the thumbs of rubber
gloves turned softly inside out.

In the mornings, there is the leaf mold
starred with nipples,
with cool white fishgills,
leathery purple brains,
fist-sized suns dulled to the color of embers,
poisonous moons, pale yellow.

Where do they come from?

For each thunderstorm that travels
overhead there's another storm
that moves parallel in the ground.
Struck lightning is where they meet.

Underfoot there's a cloud of rootlets,
shed hairs or a bundle of loose threads
blown slowly through the midsoil.
These are their flowers these fingers
reaching through darkness to the sky,
these eyeblinks
that burst and powder the air with spores.

They feed in shade, on halfleaves
as they return to water,
on slowly melting logs,
deadwood. They glow
in the dark sometimes. they taste
of rotten meat or cloves
or cooking steak or bruised
lips or new snow.

It isn't only
for food I hunt them
but for the hunt and because
they smell of death and the waxy
skins of the newborn,
flesh into earth into flesh.

Here is a handful
of shadow I have brought back to you;
this decay, this hope, this mouth-
ful of dirt, this poetry.

------ Margaret Atwood

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

To Eat or To Hunt, that is the question...

Many people have asked me which do I like most hunting mushrooms or eating them and I must confess this is indeed a conundrum for me and many other hunters. The joys of both are so fairly equal that it is hard to say. How do you measure this?

Is it based on time and resources? I certainly spend more time looking for fungi then I do eating it. Likewise, I spend more money on gas driving to potential spots, than I do on buying ingredients to go with them in my frying pan. But that does not seem a fair comparison.

Is it based on feelings? I mean I get a real rush when I stumble across a nice patch of morels or 1/2 acre of perfect chanterelles or that twenty pound hen of the woods (maitake). I have never gotten this same rush while eating them. Also, there is a flow to the hunt, a sort of oneness with the woods when you are out hunting. that connection although present is much less when eating them in your dining room. That's one reason I always enjoy eating mushrooms while camping because you get more of that when you cook them over an open fire burning from wood you also gathered. But is that a fair comparison?

So to be perfectly honest I cannot say which I like more. Stamets says that, "mushrooms help us reconnect to nature in profound ways." For me, hunting them and eating them makes me feel more alive.

I would really love to hear what you guys think. Please post a comment and let me know which you like best hunting them out or eating them up. Or feel free to share a story of how you connect with nature through mushrooms.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The First Morel of 2008

That's right folks it's getting near time to head out in the woods here in Mid-MO. Spring is in the air and morels are on the mind. To help fuel that morel fever, the first mushroom report I have seen online came in last week. As usual, this early in the year, California is the state of the first find.

The report came in via Chris Matherly's Morel Mushroom Hunting Club website. He provides a space for members and non-members of his club to report their finds at the first morel was found in Sand Diego on February 24. Here are a few borrowed pictures.

You can also follow morel reports at:
The MushroomExpert Discussion Board
Outdoor Missouri Mushroom Board
Missouri Morel Reports
Morel Mania and,
The Morel Board (free registration required, but one of my favorite boards of all).