Sharp sterilized knife, mesh bag, a map, and a backpack full of patience. Now you’re ready to go hunting for morel mushrooms! The changing of seasons brings many welcomed wonders; flowers, high water levels, and mushrooms. Here are some quick tips to finding your share of morels.
After the soil is higher than 50 degrees F and oak tree buds are the size of an M&M, then you’re ready to head into the woods. Since Delta County is in the “Banana Belt” of the Upper Peninsula, warmer weather arrives sooner and stays longer than anywhere else in the U.P. Mushrooms thrive in these warmer months and get a head start in growth. Start by looking for hardwood forests, preferably with oak trees that border swamps. Previous burn sites are often home to new morels and berries, check out this map to help you navigate your next morel hunting site.
Start looking once you’re off the well-worn paths and walk in a zigzag pattern. Morel mushrooms are great at camouflaging into their background, so keep a careful eye out. It can help to carry a long stick to flip over leaves that seem to be reaching for the sky. This could be a mushroom growing and pushing the leaf up.
Once you find a morel mushroom, stop, and look around for more. There will likely be others nearby and you don’t want to step on them. With a sharp sterilized knife, cut the mushroom at the base where it meets the ground. Only harvest what you will eat and leave some for others. Carry them out of the woods in a mesh bag to make sure they don’t get mushy and to leave spores in the woods to grow more morel mushrooms next year!
Do your research before eating morel mushrooms, it could be deadly if it’s the wrong kind. One simple way to remember if you can eat it is, “swallow if it’s hollow”. A real morel will be hollow when you cut it in half vertically. The best way to cook morel mushrooms is to soak them in a lightly salted water for a couple of hours. Then, strain out the morels and dump the water outside under a hardwood tree in hopes of starting your own colony! Pat the mushrooms dry then cook them in a pan with butter and/or garlic. Serve it with your locally caught fish or harvested greens!