Sunday, October 09, 2011

Hunting hens at night?

With the welcome sound of rain tapping on my roof top, I hope it last for a good while. We need a good soaking to bring the woods back to life before old man winter ushers in the end of the season. The mushrooms are just waiting to spring forth.

We found quite a few hens over the weekend despite the fact that we haven't received a drop of rain since mid-September. They were often small or sprouting up in unusual places such as inside stumps, or were already showing signs of drying out.

Here's an example showing the unusual nature of their appearance. It also shows you that as long as you have a flashlight, hens are one mushroom you can hunt in the dark. In fact, hens show up pretty good by flashlight because the white parts are very reflective.

I took a 90 minute midnight hike and found two of these, but before you go out in the dark. Please keep in mind the park rules. Most are closed from sunset to sunrise. However, you can hike the trails at night if you are allowed to and actually camp in the park like we did last weekend.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

More Maitake on the Way

I went back out and met back up with Calvin and then we ran into Mr. Rogers out hiking about before we came upon this tree. I had picked it a few years ago and Mr Rogers picked it last year. It looks like the early trees are just starting.

Plenty of known suspects showing no signs, but these trees usually don't show hens until October.
Looks like it could be a good fall. We just need a little more rain sometime this week.

Here are some photos of some babies that we left behind to grow. I'm hoping to pick them next week if they don't get too dry. I'm thinking the heavy morning dew will keep them going and get a few more started.

Soup's On!!! First Mid-MO Hen of the Woods

Well, I went out this morning to hunt with Calvin, a fellow Mid-MO mushroom hunter from up north. It is always great to meet other hunters and share stories, especially when times are dry. Sometimes, mother nature rewards your persistence and patience and today was no exception.

We first found some puff balls, small gem studded ones. Then we came across a nice chicken log that someone else had gotten to first and made off with some good poundage. They left behind a few nice shelves though, so a pound of chicken went into the bag.

We walked a bit more and out of no where I stumbled across the beauty pictured above. A HEN in September. What luck. About 4 pounds worth all super fresh and all usable and destined for the hearty hen soup I will be serving at the upcoming foray in a few weekends. Back to the woods, but here is one video before I go.

I am not positive but this may be the first hen in MO.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The First Fall Bird

I went out to scout to see if the recent rain had gotten anything going out at Rock Bridge. I was hoping I wouldn't find much which would mean more likelihood of finding mushrooms during the upcoming foray. I checked some chant, trumpet, and hedgehog patches. I even checked a couple of hen trees to see if there are any signs of things to come. Nothing yet.

After only ten minutes on the way to one known hen tree, I came across this and took a few videos. Keep in mind that my main purpose of taking these videos is to entice one complaining Morelin, who has been holed up in a very dry part of Kansas without a mushroom to be found for well over a month. With gas dropping BELOW $3 a gallon for the first time in I don't know how long. I thought these videos featuring one of his favorite mushrooms, the chicken of the woods, just might do the trick.

The find:

A closer look.

Still young so I left it to pick on Sunday.

Morelin, did it work?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fall Mushroom Class and Foray

I know it has been a while since my last post, but it has been a while since the ground around Mid-MO wasn't rock hard from the lack of rain and the heat. It looks like that is starting to change and with the recent rain and cooler weather with nice dewey mornings, there is a good chance that the mushrooms will make one final appearance before winter sets in.

And with fall comes a lot of fungal fun including some of the best edibles, like the hen of the woods (grifola frondosa) and chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphereus). So in hopes of finding a few edibles along with learning more about identifying other mushrooms, the newly formed Mid-MO chapter of the Missouri Mycological Society is holding their first foray out at Rock Bridge State Park.

If you need a little inspiration to attend then visit this post from a few years ago about picking 50 pounds in one day. That big one in the photo the size of my backpack was in Rock Bridge. That was taken only 10 days later than the upcoming foray, and with the cool weather, I expect quite a few hens will be flocking about the days of the hunt.

And even if the weather does not cooperate, Brad Bomanz from MOMS will be giving a workshop on identifying common edible mushrooms in MO on Saturday morning, followed by a pot luck lunch in which I promise to bring my own version of the Hearty Hen Soup recipe Maxine listed in her MO Wild Mushrooms book.

Here are the details.
Saturday, October 8 & Sunday, October 9
Mushroom/Fungi Fall Foray
Hosted by Mid-Missouri Chapter of The Missouri Mycological Society
Where: Rockbridge Mills Shelter and the special use camping area in the Gans Creek Wild Area
of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park
For More Info Contact: Stan Hudson:

What to Bring:
• Basket for collecting
• Knife
• Small roll aluminum foil to protect delicate specimen
• Appropriate clothes for the weather
• A dish to share for the pot luck lunch on Saturday
• Water and snacks
• Sunscreen & bug spray

Activities Include:
Speaker MoMS member Brad Bomanz Saturday at 10 am (ROCKBRIDGE MILLS SHELTER)
• Potluck lunch at noon (ROCKBRIDGE MILLS SHELTER)
• Foray for mushrooms in the park 1 pm Saturday and 10 am Sunday (SPECIAL USE CAMP)
• Identification tips from seasoned veterans Located at the Special Use Area of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park

Directions to the special use camp can be found on the MOMS website.

I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Deliciously Smooth -- Chanterelle Cream Sauce

One of the prettiest non-features of any mushroom is the smooth underside of Cantharellus lateritius or the aptly named smooth chanterelle. It grows in quite abundance around certain parts of Missouri and Mid-MO has its own hot spots. They are just starting to flush and the lack of rain has them coming on slowly yet in good numbers.

Although common chanterelles could easily be mistaken for the poisonous jack-o-lantern, the smooth underside provides certainty of the bountiful gourmet goodness that they bring, The smell is also a dead give away. If you get a lot of them together in a bag you'll notice this waxy light fruity smell instead of the usual pungent fungus smell of other mushrooms. Many guides describe the smell like apricots. And they taste the same way. Not like apricots, mind you, but unusual and unlike any other mushroom. They rival morels in taste in my own humble opinion, but then again I may not be that objective tonight, as I slathered a mess of sauteed chants over my KC strip for dinner.

Let me show you how easy these smooth fellows can make you into a gourmet. I was hungry and I found a great sale on steaks, but I wasn't thinking it through and so I didn't get anything to go with it. Now I have chanterelles, so I knew they were going in there - three different varieties in fact (common yellow and orange ones and of course smooths). I looked around and found an onion from the farmer's market and a little bit of cream left over from a batch of home-made ice cream for the 4th. I needed garlic but was out. I was about to turn to the powdered stuff when I remembered some garlic that had gone wild behind the house, so I went out and pulled some up. It was small but would do the trick.

And now for the recipe. Did I say that I do not believe in recipes and rarely follow one. That being said, be ready for long meandering explanations that you will have to translate onto your own recipe card if you want to preserve it. Also I am not a foodie and this is NOT a food blog. I just want to set the record straight.

Wednesday Night's Chanterelle Cream Sauce

Step one, pull the chanterelles into even pieces. You can cut them if you want, but I like the rougher look and it is just plain easier. Put a saute pan on medium heat and add just the tiniest bit of oil (preferably a light olive oil) to wet the pan.

Place the chanterelles in the pan and saute on medium stirring occasionally until they have reduced in size by half.

Add in some sliced onion, as much or as little as you like. Continue sauteing until the onion has just gotten translucent. Mince and add in the garlic and saute for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add in some cream. I was cooking for one here, so I started with only a handful of chants and I used about 1/3 cup of cream and some beef stock. I didn't have stock on hand because I grilled my steak, but I made some by cutting off 1/4 of a beef bullion cube and dissolving it in a 1/4 cup of water (if you want to slather this over chicken use chicken stock, etc.) Simmer on medium stirring often to reduce. Salt and pepper to taste.

When it has reduced enough it should be just about the consistency of that good old gravy at Thanksgiving.

Just at the end add small dab of butter, dissolve and stir for just 30 seconds. Pour it on and eat away. Be careful though it is very rich. I could not even finish my steak. Nothing better than these kind of leftovers.

You would pay $20 - 25 bucks for a steak like that in a restaurant. I know because I have. It just goes to show the rich rewards you can find in the woods if you can bear the heat and the bugs, oh and those dang spider webs. I think I hate the feeling of walking head-down, yet face first, into those sticky things most of all. However, it is well worth it.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Chanterelle Trail

Now some may ask where the heck this trail is, but this time of year if you dare to go out in the heat, in most wooded parks in Mid-MO you are bound to come along a patch or two of chanterelles.

In fact the one pictured to the left may be an as of yet unidentified type. It has the same size and stature of the common yellow cibarius-like chanterelle showing defined ridges, but it is the same orange color as a smooth chanterelle. I handed it off to a professional for proper identification and DNA testing. With the backlog though he said that it could be 4 to 6 years before he knows what it is for sure.

Anyway the nice meaty smooth chants were just starting last week, so for anyone who came on the weekend hunt, you should go back and start picking. The rains have them at about the perfect size and there are lots and lots of buttons of more to come.

Here are a few videos to get you wanting to grab a basket and hit the woods.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

No Foray Sunday

Well we came and we hunted but the lack of rain worked against us and you could walk parts of the woods for a long time and see no signs of fungal life. Despite the dry weather, we did manage to turn up around 32 different varieties of mushrooms, including a small mess of common and yellow chanterelles.

There was not a bolete to be found. Even the little ones I had left behind last weekend to grow had shriveled up in the lack of rain. There has been a lot of rain to the north and to the south but not on the state park. It even did so today as rain clouds passed to the north and developed right over us but only let out a few sprinkles before raining down to the east.

So due to the lack of rain there will be no hunt tomorrow. We will postpone the hunt for now. There were lots of little chanterelle buttons, so as soon as the water starts they should be ready to pick. Hopefully it will be soon.

For those who enjoyed the foray and or those who missed it and want to see what one is like. There is another one planned for Oct. 8 & 9 to hopefully hunt out some hens and maybe some fall chanterelles or trumpets. So mark your calendars now, the location will be out at the Cedar Creek District of Mark Twain National Forest.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Foray Update - This Weekend (June 25-26)

Just a reminder of the Mid-MO mushroom foray this weekend. The rain hasn't been as plentiful as I would like (though that is probably a good thing for those along the Big Muddy) there are still mushrooms to be found in the woods. Reports of chanterelles, boletes, chicken of the woods, and numerous non-edibles have been coming in all week.

For those who plan to attend, here are few things you may want to consider bringing along.
  1. Water and plenty of it (three is none at the camp but you can get it in other parts of the park)
  2. Food for lunch and snacks
  3. Sunscreen
  4. Bug spray (the ticks and skeeters are both pretty bad this year)
  5. Rain gear or umbrella, unless you don't mind getting wet. (There's a good chance of showers sometime tomorrow and Sunday)
  6. A basket or bags for collecting mushrooms.
  7. A roll of aluminum foil. If you are collecting both edible and non-edibles then you don't want to get what could possibly be a poisonous mushroom (or even a piece of one) mixed in with your chanterelles. You can make little bags with the foil and keep everything separate in your bag/basket.
I will be checking my email tonight if you have any last minute questions or need more information. Hope to see you this weekend.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Foray Weekend - June 25 & 26 - Hope to See You There

If you have ever wanted to go out and learn about some of the others with the help of some seasoned mushroom hunters, or you have ever just wanted to to know what the heck that mushroom is then this weekend is for you.

In the hopes of generating enough mushroom interest to form a local chapter of the MO Mycological Society, I am organizing a few forays this year around Columbia.

The first will be Saturday June 25 and Sunday June 26, beginning at 9 a.m. at Rock Bridge State Park Plan to meet at the Special Use Camp in the Gans Creek Nature Area of Rock Bridge. Click here for a map of the park. the camp is listed with a "C" on the map just north of 163 near the western edge of the park map. Mycologista found a better map which actually has the camp listed. You turn north onto Raylea Lane off of 163 to get to the campsite and meeting place.

Camping is available on Friday (24th) and Saturday night for those out of the area at a rate of $2 per person per night. Cheap but primitive, only pit toilets are available. Message me for more information if you intend to camp. We will carpool to the trails from the camp (some can just forage along the trails running out of camp), then return to identify and share what we find. If you can stay for dinner please bring some food to share. I will see if I can get some BBQ going and I am sure we can find a few fungi to fix up for those hunting the "others" for the first time to try.

With all the moisture, there should be plenty of stuff around and there is lots of ground to cover in Rock Bridge. Last year at that time the early chanterelles were out, as well as chickens, and some tasty edible boletes. Early scouting last Saturday found a handful of chnats and a whole lot of buttons, so there should be some chants and we may even find a few other edibles.

Regardless, there will be a lot of the non-edibles out there and if you want to learn more about identification of all mushrooms, this is the place to be. You can go out and pick any fungus and bring it back for more experienced mushroomers to identify.

Email me if you have any questions or need additional information.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Oregon Mountain Black Morels

Sorry for the lack of posts, but I was on vacation in Oregon camping, hiking, biking, and if possible I was hoping to maybe find a mushroom or two. The week started off slow mushroomwise. The west has had a clod wet spring which meant that a lot of mountain areas still had lots of snow so we mainly stuck to other outdoor activities.

However while hiking a orgeous trail along some falls in the McKenzie River Valley we did come across some hedgehogs. They had come up last fall and overwintered in th snowpack. We found many that were mushy and rooten as they thawed out, but here and there you would find one that was firm and fresh still after the thaw. That gave me my first taste of mushroom hunting so I had to look more.

We also found the one truly deadly false morel, gyromitra esculenta, which is the one false morel that has documented deaths associated with it. As you can see from the photo, it is very dark in color. It also has a truly hollow stem, so it is pretty easy to identify compared to other false morels you find in the mountains out west, which is primarily the snowbank false morel or gyromitra gigas, which looks a lot like the g. carolinas that I find in my area except it is brown instead of red.

These were all good signs that morels could be out there, so we kept moving north and got to Mt. Hood National Forest. I checked in at the ranger station to ask about which trails were open to hiking or biking, but as I started talking with the ranger I noticed a fellow next to me was filling out forms for a mushroom picking permit. Naturally, I had to ask and found out that many people had been getting permits in the last week and they were free for those picking for personal consumption. I quickly filled out the forms and provided my I.D. to verify my identity. In return, I got a permit and a really detailed map of the area showing area where you could and could not look for mushrooms.

With over 295,917 acres, it was quite daunting to decide where to begin in the area. Most of the area in the higher elevations was still covered in snow, so that helped limit it a bit. The map limited it a bit more. After talking mushrooms with the two rangers for about five minutes and winning them over, they finally gave up some key information, suggesting a part of the park with southern slopes and lots of ponderosa pine, so I headed out.

I was with an old friend who was not into mushroom hunting, but was nice enough to indulge my passion. As we were driving in and I was trying to find a nice south facing slope
to begin, I made my friend Mike slow down so I could do some recon. Suddenly I spotted something a little darker and pointed straight up amongst the pine cones and needles littering the side of the road.

Mike stopped and I got out and sure enough there was a nice black morel. I looked around and found about 8 more in that area and took this video.

I continued to hunt along the road for about an hour while Mike rode his bike around the trails in the area. Here is another video of an along the road find. Notice the car going by in the background. Luckily I was hidden behind some small evergreens and was not seen.

We had walkie talkies and he kept seeing other folks out mushroom hunting, so I knew I was in the right area. We actually scared quite a few people as our walkies rang out in the woods. I guess most people aren't used to that kind of communications as they usually just yell back and forth while hunting (if you can hear this, it is also a useful way to gather some information about what is hitting). Here is a video where you can hear Mike checking in to see where I am at just as I was recording a find.

We were trying to figure out where to go next when we met some folks who Mike had ran into earlier in the woods. I was taking a photo for my kids using some stuffed animals to document my trip like in that one commercial and I think that sparked their curiosity so they stopped.

After some introductions, we explained that we were out on vacation and had decided to try and find some morels. They asked if we had found any and I showed them our finds at the time, which was about 30 morels. I guess showing them that we could find them brought them around a bit and we began talking a bit more. They gradually started opening up more and telling me about some of their own recent and past finds in the area. After about 20 minutes they said they were moving on to do some road hunting and to check a few more areas and surprised us when they asked us if we wanted to tag along. Most people are very secretive about their spots, but our good nature and my passion for mushrooms must have won them over.

Our hosts, who wish to remain anonymous online, were incredibly generous. When they found out Mike had never found a mushroom before, it became their first task to make sure he would find his first. This was great because I couldn't get MIke to hunt with me, but he is too nice to strangers to say no, so he was forced to get a taste of the hunt. We continue to hunt with them for the rest of the afternoon into the early evening.

They also hunted other mushrooms and it was great to swap stories of hunting and discuss the differences between hunting out West compared to the Midwest. One of our hosts was originally from Michigan, so I got a few classic stories from there as well. After hunting with them we had easily collected our limit for the day, which was one gallon. We gladly gave half of them to one of our hosts who had not found as many and still ended up with over 50 morels coming in just over a pound (they were still fairly small because of the cooler than usual spring).

We camped in the area that night which was free because it was before the official season began and just walking around camp I found tem more on the edge of of trails and the road. I didn't see a pattern in regards to trees. Now I don't know my evergreens like I do the deciduous trees back home, but I can tell a few pines and western cedars and blue spruce. I found morels by all of them. The key seemed to be disturbed areas like OTV or game trails, along roadways, and in sections that had been logged a while ago.

In the end I could not have asked for a better day of hunting. Found plenty of mushrooms, learned a lot of new tricks about a brand new area, I got to find my first black morels of the year, which to me have a richer flavor and are preferred despite their more delicate nature. And most importantly, I got to make some new friends in the mushroom world.

And being like most mushroomers I have met these were really good people. One even knew the director of operations at a local ski resort and hooked us up with comp tickets and a nice discount for rentals. We were already planning to ski the next day. Besides mushroom hunting, there is nothing more I love than skiing, so getting to ski at one of the primo facilities where the US olympians train in the summer for only $20 was the icing on the cake to a perfect trip.

A big thanks goes out to the mushroom hunter who set it all up. You are the best, to not only share your comp tickets but for sharing your knowledge and secrets to finding mountain morels after meeting two strangers from out of town. Very few would be so kind and generous and you can expect an early delivery of morels from the Midwest next year. You really made the end of the trip exceptional and gave us some great stories to share around future campfires.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Late Season Missouri Morels

Believe it or not but with all this cool weather there are still morels around to be had. You may also find a few rotten ones but if you keep looking eventually you can come across some real beauties.

Generally late season morels are those big beer can yellows like the one in my hand a few pictures below, but if you luck out you can find some nice fresh ones like the one to the left.

This one is actually a diferent type of morel than I usually find. I was lucky enough to be told about a patch of "small morels" by some friends who were out letterboxing when they stumbled across a nice motherlode (which proves that some of the best finds are just found by getting out in the woods). They said they were all small which was unusual compared to the big yellows they had found in other areas. That was my first clue that they could be the true late season morel, Morchella deliciosa When I located the spot, which was an adventure in itself due to the mischievous nature of the letterboxers, I soon realized that they were indeed m. deliciosa. In an old Missouri Conservationist story, they have a little more information.
Late Morel (Morchella deliciosa)
  • Appears after all other species are overmature or gone.
  • Their small size (1-3 inches) is disappointing compared to giants.
  • Pits are large and few compared to other species.
  • The least understood and most often overlooked species.
  • Excellent flavor, but often difficult to find enough for a meal.
They say you can find them well into May if you look hard enough and find the right spot. The ones I found were pictured here in the top row.

Notice how they have smaller and more pointed tops. Also if you take a closer look at the photo, you will notice how the pits are vertically arranged (the ridges run pretty much straight up and down the cap), more like black morels. I also found those grays and that big yellow today and placed them in the photo for shape, size, and pit comparison. They are the common morel or Morchella esculenta I had to go dark and deep to find those few. By dark and deep, I mean go way off trail into those deep dark ravines and draws in the hills, or in this case a large city park.

The thing about late season hunting is that if you are hunting the regular yellow morels they are easy to find. I saw this one from 100 feet through some pretty thick bush honeysuckle. It was a meal in itself.

The true late season morels are much, much harder to find. First they are tiny so seeing them is tough and then they are incredible hiders because of their small size. Take this video for example:

And a big thanks to I Dig Toasters and MOUR4ME for telling me about thee little guys, so I could find and document them on my blog and get a good taste of late morels. They are tiny but very tasty in my book.

What was best about these was that they were in another city park. Just a small section of woods that is in the middle of a neighborhood. Just goes to show, you never know what you will find in any old small patch of woods until you get out there and look. I am not saying you will always find something, but sometimes you may be pleasantly surprised.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cool Videos: Morels and Spore Puffing

Have you ever placed your morels out to dry only to come back and find that the spores were dispersed everywhere and not just what you would expect from a mere spore print. I once laid some out on old dehydrators trays and hung them in a hot room only to come back and find the entire room covered from the walls to the floor.

Mushrooms in the Ascomycetes hold their spores in asci. For morels each one holds eight spores. They have a very unique ability to coordinate the ejection of all spores at once. If you witness this it can be seen as a cloud. Michael Kuo describes this in his book Morels.

No one knows what triggers it but some suggest it could be light, heat, or a sudden breeze.
Although not morels, check out this very cool video that Mycologista took of the Devils Urn actually doing this spore "huffing" or "puffing."

[Sorry folks, I got ahead of myself and posted the original video without getting permission. Lesson learned from me. The cool photage has been temporarily removed while Mycologista does a special article on the phenomenon for Mushroom the Journal and her own blog. I will put it back up as soon as it ready for full release. For those of you who saw it, you got a super special sneak peak].

What is also great about this video is that if you turn up your volume the mushrooms actually hiss when they "puff." Makes you wonder if this plays into why it was called the devil's urn. I mean a hissing mushroom is eerily otherworldly.

In the meantime, here is a similar video.

Although the video is sideways and I am not sure that these are Devil's urns, they are a cup fungi and all cup fungi are Ascomycetes. Though they don't hiss like the video that Mycologista has. I can't wait to put it back up.

And last but not least here are morels doing the same thing. Check out the clouds of spores blowing off the morels in this tray. It is much more of a slow release.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Morel Hunting and Cooking Presentation

Man that respiratory bug going around hit me hard and took me out for the last three days. It probably wouldn't have been that bad but for some reason in morel season, I never quite get the sleep that I should.

Anyway, while I rest up, I thought I would mention that I got roped into doing a talk for the Friends of Rock Bridge State Park on Monday about hunting and cooking morels. Which means I will need to get better so I can go out on Sunday and find a few morels to cook up for the group. If anyone is in the area and has a few extra to spare, please feel free to stop by and bring them. I have some already but no telling how many people will show up and I would like to give everyone a taste.

Even if you don't have any morels, if you are around Columbia Monday evening please feel free to stop by. Here are the details:

Morel Madness - Monday April 25, 2011 - 6:30 pm, Gilbert Shelter, Rock Bridge Memorial State Park (rain venue - Park Office Building)

Oh and I did manage to spy a tree on my way home from the doctor today that I just could not pass up. Glad I stopped.

The morel goddess was smiling down on me and I picked 40+ in just under 5 minutes. It's just too hard to keep a true hunter down.

The tree was only 75 feet from the road but after 5 minutes I was already breaking out in a cold sweat from my cold so I headed back to the car. I am sure I left a few behind that I will have to pick next time I drive by.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Missouri Morel Videos

Sorry no recent posts in the last few days. It is the middle of the season and if I am not picking morels then I am busy doing everything else I neglect during daylight to hunt them.
So in the meantime, here are a few videos from Saturday and Sunday to tide you over until I can find the time to do a real post.

The first one comes from a hunt down with Linncreeker on his farm which I was lucky enough to sneak in after I had some business at the Lake Saturday morning. We picked what he called "a few" (i think it was around 50) under a nice dead elm.

LC is the narrator and took the first video because I had left my phone back at the ranch. Luckily we just rode back on the 4 wheeler and got it, before we checked the next spot. Oh the spoils of farming morels on your own ranch. He even grows them in the grass for easy picking. That is LC out in one of his "fields" in the photo. If you look close you will see a nice yellow morel growing in the grass at his feet.

Once I got my phone back I managed to take one short video. It might stir up some debate, so I won't say anything and let you be the judge. Morels and Mayapples?

And last but not least, or maybe so in the morel family, I came across a mess of these (we picked over 30) in a stand of green ash while hunting with good friends who drove down from K.C. In all my years of hunting that area (about 7), I had never found half frees there. A very unusual find for me indeed, but a nice treat to have something just a bit different to mix in (they aren't quite as good as morels but still tasty).

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Morels Are Growing Easier to See

I wasn't able to hunt today. My responsibilities finally caught up to me, so no hunting until Sunday. I'll just have to let this rain get the ones in the hills ready for the picking.

However, I did manage to get out yesterday. It started out hopeful as I met Shroom King and we headed to a new spot that had held promise in the past. Unfortunately, it did not pan out. Shroom King managed to scour up over 1/2 a pound, but all I could find were stumps from previous pickers and I managed to lose my sunglasses.

After such a discouraging morning, I decided to give it another try and took a very long walk that I took over the weekend which had been rewarding. I am glad I did. Apparently, I had left a lot of little ones behind and with the five days of 70 degree weather in between they had grown quite nicely. I only picked 159, but they were big and the lot weighed in at just over 4 and 1/4 pounds. Not bad for 1 1/2 hours of picking (I am not counting the 35 min walk in and out). And that is the key. To find these late season beauties, you have to get out to where no one else has been. If you have ground yet to walk or rewalk then you are in luck, but if it was hit by someone else then it is time to take those risks and check new ground. You never know where you might find them.

Here is a video showing what I mean. I wish I could hunt like this everyday.

Though not to be outdone, CamoShroomer sent me this, proving that even in those well hunted areas, you can still find an overlooked gem in all those acres of timber.

Oh and to make up for the poor hunting trip yesterday morning, I tipped Shroom King off this morning and I hear he managed to get in today just in time to pick 4 or 5 pounds before the weekend warriors starting showing up in droves. The rain will not only bring out the morels, but it will bring out all of those who have yet to find one. Hopefully the rains and cooler weather will continue and it will be good season for all.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Balancing Work and Morels

Not much time to post tonight and I know I still have some photos coming from last week, but all in good time. After all IT IS MOREL SEASON. Hunt, and eat and sleep so you can hunt are the main focus, oh yeah and then there is this thing called work that even when you have understanding bosses, you still have to make sure you get your job done. I make a quick mention of this balancing act, while I shot a hunting video today

I walked up on this find with 20 minutes left on a conference call that I was bluetoothing in on my mobile phone (on mute of course so they didn't hear me yell when I found these beauties in an overlooked spot). I really wanted to video it but I was on my phone which I use to take the videos so I sat there looking at these for that 20 minutes. Needless to say it was very distracting looking at some of the larger ones. Two of them by themselves weighed in at half a pound. I wanted to pick them and keep walking looking for more trees, but I was patient.

Some Real Beauties

Covered a lot of ground today and picked about 2 1/2 pounds so my legs are aching and my fingers itching to make a batch. Instead of a recipe or hunting tale, here are just a few photos from the last few days. And before you send me kudos on my photos understand one thing, I have no training and relying completely on amateur's luck.

A new patch I stumbled on provided some very picturesque photo opportunities. I have never found morels growing amidst the violets before.

This was my favorite of the set. The morel has such a rugged character compared to the soft purple sea behind it.

A short fat cluster

Some were getting to be nice sized.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Morels & Asparagus - A Recipe

I was not able to get out hunting today but I was still able to enjoy the weekend's spoils. I was in the mood for something different and looked into the fridge to see what we had. I saw two other things that sounded good, asparagus and bacon and a plan was hatched.

Borrowing on what KawRyan had made on our camp out in Oklahoma, I started out by cooking 3 slices of bacon in the pan over medium until cooked to be crispy rather than chewy. I next cleaned and cut the asparagus unto manageable bits and cut the morels in half. I didn't wash or clean them. Some did have some of them little varmints on them but I just figured it was extra protein.

Once sliced and ready to go, I sauted the morels and asparagus in the bacon grease in the pan. After about 5 to 7 minutes, I added a good dash of cognac (but you could use any alcohol, I think KawRyan used Wild Turkey). I quickly set the cognac on fire and flombeed them for about ten seconds or until the alcohol burned off. Finish with a little pepper and top with the crumbled up bacon. Oh man, what good eating.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mommy We Found 6!

Mushroom hunting for me is not about the quantity of mushrooms you find, but more about the quality of the experience. Many people do not understand this and think I am crazy when I give away a pound or two of morels after putting in all the time and energy to hunt them down. But I love the hunt and to me, the mushroom is more of an added bonus. And sometimes the memories will last a lifetime.

Although I have picked almost five hundred in the last two days, I would give them all up for the six we found today. Because today I took my kids hunting for the first time. I must say I was a little nervous. My kids are 6 year old twins, meaning they will not walk too far or through too tough terrain for long. Also, if you do not find anything soon, minds tend to wander and the nagging to go home or go to the play park is soon to follow. So, I was under a lot of extra pressure to produce morels and fast.

Lucky for me, the morel goddess was smiling down and had kept one small set of trees I knew to produce safe from the eyes of numerous hunters, and they were out in droves. I counted no less than 18 vehicles along the roadway as I drove in. It is only because of good morel karma (some gained by giving to those who can't hunt any longer). This set of trees is right off the road, I mean literally 25 feet from the road. However, it is kind of by itself so no one really ever checks it. I had scouted and hidden a few little ones three days before, and as I walked up and pointed out which trees to look around, I looked anxiously to see if it they had been picked.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw them, no longer hidden by the leaves, and just waiting to be seen. The kids have their daddy's eyes because it took them no time at all to spot them. My son was the first to say "Look, a mushroom," but his sis was way ahead of him and moving around the tree to get a closer look pointing as she went.

He quickly moved into action and began picking while his sister kept on spotting.

I am not sure if this was a twin thing, but they sure had an unspoken system that came natural to them and they uncovered five pretty quickly. In the end, even my daughter started picking.

As we were leaving they found one real nice 4 inch gray that was only about 15 feet from the road sitting all by itself in the tall grass. Always good to leave on a high note.

Overall it was a very short but very sweet hunt. Their first official morel hunt was a success. I say official because I did take them hunting when they were four by dragging them down a trail in an over-sized radio flyer plastic wagon (the by product of morel fever and no baby sitter). They did find some mushrooms that day, but they were not there by choice. This time, they really wanted to go on a hunt. Today hunting with the kids, and this weekend hunting with good friends, reminds me how much I enjoy watching other people find mushrooms. Their are a few good mushroomers out there that share this sentiment. By choice or by chance, a lot of the people I hunt with are of this same ilk and it is something I hope to share, not just with my kids, but with my grandkids.

Only a few more years and the kids will be able to hit it hard with me. Watch out folks, then there will be three sets of eyes spying trees in the woods. Is it wrong to take your kids out of school for two weeks in April?

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Morel Militia Hits Mid-MO

Last year a rowdy crew of folks from across the state decided to meet for a morel hunt in hopes of finding a good score early in April. Unfortunately, we were early and had little luck in our chosen spots. Jon Rapp, who has been know to attend fungal forays was there and took a group photo before everyone went home. When he sent it to everyone, he dubbed us the "morel militia" and our name and our ranks were formed.

Hoping to not have a repeat of last year, we gave it a shot again this year with the addition of a few folks who were kind enough to create and establish the morelhunters website that many of us have grown to love. Although hot, it turned out to be a spectacular weekend.

It was great to see old freinds and to meet some new faces. Camoshroomer was a tremendous host and morelchef, well he lived up to his name more than once. I have never eaten so well during a season. Dinner normally is whatever I can get the strength to muster after a day in the woods (AKA mac N cheese). Last night I ate a huge steak just slathered with morels. Also, I finally found someone who can keep up with me. the don't call him The Mushroom King for no good reason. TMK you can hunt with me any day.

Most important between Friday and Saturday, I picked over five pounds, which was exactly 418 mushrooms because most were small to medium grays/yellows. Everyone found some and all went home with a smile and having lost at least 3 pounds from sweating.

I'm too tired from all the walking today to say more, so here is a video from today to tide you over until I can post more photos and stories later. It will give you a real feel for how we hunt militia style.

Any militia members who attended, please feel free to leave a comment and add your own tales of the weekend. I had to leave early, so there are sure to be more finds tomorrow.

Oh and here is one militia member at an early stage in his mushroom career.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Missouri Morel Hunting Video

Too tired to write much tonight. Found 300+ in two areas. A few from a northern spot, they were nice and fresh, so I figured I would let the rest of the young ones be and head to a more southern spot.

After a quick 30 minute car ride, I was back in the woods and it didn't take long before the bag started filling up. I'll let this video tell the rest of the story. (Pardon the shaky camera work, this is the first time I have tried doing a shroom hunting video with my camera).

More photos and details to come. Must sleep. Lots of hunting to do this weekend. Hope to see you in the woods.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

My First MO Morels of 2011

After having to be at the office in meetings all day Monday and Tuesday, I had a hard time sleeping last night knowing that I would finally be able to get out there and find my first MO morels of 2011. It was just like being a kid again the night before Christmas.

I started out and checked a few known producing spots more north, but a couple of quick walks and glances revealed nothing. So, I headed off further south where I met up with Camoshroomer and we hit the woods.

It wasn't long before Camo, who actually wasn't wearing camos for once, was bending over and picking a few. They were small but numerous. It is still early, so I spent a lot of time covering up youngens, not so much to hide them from others, as much to protect them from the sun and blowing wind threatening to dry them up. When I covered some, I would almost always uncover more even smaller ones which I then had to recover. It was a lot of work. But don't worry too much about drying, as you can see most were nice and fresh, and we only found a few with burnt tops.

Here is the first MO morel for 2011 for me. It was followed by quite a few more. Like I said, some were quite small and I left them behind, but I did pick quite a few small one inchers. Some may criticize me for doing so, arguing that I should leave them to grow. Despite that, I had two words that Camo had said earlier that day on my mind "popcorn morels."

Oh man, just like popcorn shrimp, there is little better than a handful of popcorn morels. To make it, all you do is select small morels, no larger than an inch and a half. DO NOT cut them up. Leave them whole. This recipe is best early on in the season when the bugs haven't gotten to the mushrooms and they haven't been dirtied too much by splashing hard rains. Once you have them selected give them a short bath in liquid. If you wash them, then don't dry them. If you don't wash them, then drop them quickly in a bowl of milk, wine, beer, whatever. After that you simply place them in a bag with flour and whatever seasoning you like and shake. Then straight into a pan of butter/oil to fry.

Being small they cook up fast and they taste so good. An old timer once had a theory as to why this was so. After going out on a short walk with him and finding a few young freshies, we were sitting around getting ready to eat them and he pondered. He said the one thing few folks know is that morels grow, but a little secret he knew was that the morel has all the flavor it will ever have the moment it is formed. He went on to explain that as they get bigger that flavor gets distributed throughout the mushroom, which is why those big and meaty yellows never quite have that exquisite taste of a small gray. Well, I don't know if that is quite the way it is, but after eating a mess of popcorn morels, I am hard pressed to argue. He may just be on to something.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Morel Reports and Regulations

More confirmations that they have arrived in Mid-MO keep showing up. Here is one from Mark B. who just couldn't pass up a few young grays he found on Sunday. Way to go Mark and thanks for sending in the report.

Hopefully most of the ones out there are still small and underneath the leaf litter so they are protected from the freezing temperatures tonight. I expect a few who are poking their heads out will have some frost damage on their tops, but the rest will resume growing again as the temps pick up the rest of the week.

In other news, I saw that morels had made their way into this month's MDC Conservationist. In the ask the ombudsman section, where a conservation staffer answers readers questions, they discuss the general regulations for picking morels on most public land that you will find in MO. Here is the Q&A for those who don't want to follow the link:

Q: I want to go morel hunting this spring. What are the regulations regarding collecting them from public land?

A: Most public lands allow mushroom collecting for personal consumption (noncommercial purposes) and no permit is required. Collecting is allowed on conservation areas except on the grounds of several conservation nature centers and our headquarter office grounds in Jefferson City. Missouri’s state parks allow collecting and specify a limit of two gallons per person per visit. Mark Twain National Forest allows collecting with no quantity specified.

(source: MDC Conservationist, April 2011 - Volume 72, Issue 4, [accessed 4-4-11])

The only thing I would add to this is if you are looking at a city park be sure to check for specific regulations. Most cities do not have any regulations or their regulations mirror the state's in that you can pick for personal consumption. However, a few do have specific restrictions. I will never forget the day I had just spent an hour picking trumpets and chanterelles in a St. Louis Park only to have a police officer come over and order me to dump my basket because St Louis County has an ordinance that does not allow mushing picking in their parks. It was hard enough with chants, it would be an even harder lesson to learn after having to give up a nice mess of morels.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Mid-MO Is a Go

I was busy doing all the things I had neglected after heading to Oklahoma to hunt, but Camoshroomer got out in the 90 degree heat down near Jeff City and sent a few photos. They are here and this warm day got them growing enough to finally see them poking out. I have to work Monday and Tuesday but I hope to be picking my first Missouri morels on Wednesday.

Keep those reports coming. David S. from south of St. Louis found some "reds" on Friday and I saw reports on the boards yesterday of small grays being found in St. Louis County. Keep those eyes peeled if you are out. They are very small and just starting to peak out. Next week should be the start of a few weeks of good picking, as long as the it doesn't get too hot or suddenly go into a late hard freeze. Time to get ready.

Friday, April 01, 2011

If the morels won't come to you, go to the morels.

Well you know how it is. Sometimes the fever just gets a hold of you and you can't shake it. The recent cold spell had put a damper on anything in Mid-MO having started up and going out ans scouting the usual places for dead and dying trees just wasn't too feasible since most of the trees weren't even budding yet. I just had to get out. Job stress was becoming too much when combined with cabin and morel fever, that a good walk in the woods was the only way to go.
With the taste of Camoshroomers morels in my mouth from eating them all week, I just had to have some more. So I decided to follow the advice on one of those recent Bass Pro commercials and trade in a few work days for some camping. I could go it alone, but I decided to see who I could get. Now Camo having been back from Georgia and with a whole mess of them his fridge, I fi.gured he was a long shot, but I texted him asking if he could get off work Thursday and Friday.
His first response was why. When I said I wanted to head south to hunt, within minutes I got my response, let me check followed not one minute later by I'm a go. So we were on.
The only thing now was to decide where to go. Things are moving a little slow like a usual year and so we were looking at going way down to southern Missouri or northern Arkansas, two places that I have had little luck (if anyone from those areas wants to teach me how to hunt those areas next March, let me know and I'll gladly pay you back in April and teach you the MO river bottom tricks).

I got a tip from several of the crew who had been slowly trickling down to parts of Oklahoma all week that some areas were picking up. Not the tens of pouns that those guys are usually hauling but a few pounds here and there. Camoshroomer and I debated, we could take our chances picking small grays in MO or head a few more hours south to find some nice yellows.

So we hit the road. We met up with the gang on Thursday, just as they were packing up. Some were headed home for various reasons. Others were moving camp after getting some tips and looking at topo maps to try for other spots that might really be popping, we headed out. We drove 50 minutes to an area that was all oak and pine. No dice for morels there. That is a problem with trying to scope out stuff online from google earth, you can see the trees are there but until you go and look, it is hard to judge what kinds they are.

After skunking out we moved to another potential spot but it being late, we just found a camp and planned for in the morning. We checked out several spots that morning but had no luck so we left the group who was heading north towards home and headed back to where we had first met everyone. We quickly started walking some woods and soon enough we were on to them.

Only really got to hunt that afternoon, but we did OK. We came out with a good 3 1/2/ pounds. The next morning on the way back home we stopped and checked a spot in Muskogee that looked good from the highway. It looked like the area had been picked clean, but Camo still maned to find about a half pound in an hour. Overall, we didn't hit it super big , but it was a great time and it was nice to have some freshies in the fridge.

On the way home we heard reports of finds in Springfield from some fellow hunters. The Missouri reports are starting to roll in, so no more need for road trips, for now.

Here is the first morel I found for 2011. It wasn't a big one, but it sure was a beauty to see.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Early Missouri Reports

I was going to post this one later but after seeing a recent comment on the last post saying it is just too cold, I figured I should get this out sooner than later.
Sightings of young black morels and even a few small grays are trickling in from southern MO on a lot of the morel reports boards all last week. Then on Monday, I get this from Tim down in Laclede County. He found a nice looking youngen coming up in the grass on Sunday. Thanks Tim for sharing your find. Also kudos on taking the paper like a good Show-Me hunter.
Laclede is only a few counties south of my own, Boone, along what I would call the southern edge of Mid-MO. I know it won't be long now for Columbia. A little warmer weather is all we need to get things a popping. By next weekend if you look hard enough or in the right spots, you should be able to find a few of these yourself.