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.