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Morel mushroom hunting

Discussion in 'Woods and Waters' started by inkasnana, Mar 21, 2009.

  1. inkasnana

    inkasnana New Recruit

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    It's almost that time again! Time for those delicious little morsels called Morel mushrooms to start popping up! If you are an experienced Morel hunter, then you know what, and where, to look for these delicacies. You probably also know how to tell the difference between a "true" Morel and a "false" Morel. For those that are less experienced, or even those that just want a "refresher", I thought I would post some pictures of each, along with some information.

    This information comes from the Marvelous in Nature website. I added the images to show the differences between the "true" and "false" Morels. The first 2 images are "true", and the bottom 2 images are "false".

    Morels are one of the most distinctive of the mushrooms. They look a bit like crumpled sponges, with honeycomb-like creases and folds in the cap. They come in four identifiable varieties, that roughly correspond to species: yellow, gray, black, and “spike”, the latter having an exaggerated stem and reduced cap.


    [​IMG]

    They’re a springtime species, coming up in late April or early May in our area, but as early as late February or early March in the far southern reaches of their range. Their colour makes them blend in with the debris that covers the ground at this time of year, but they’re fairly obvious once you spot them. They can grow to be quite large, in some instances to six or eight inches or more. Other individuals may be comparatively tiny, less than an inch. Size is dictated more by the available resources the mushroom has to grow than by the species.

    They are often associated with forest fire sites, where they grow prolifically in the first two or three years after the burn. The reason for this isn’t stated, but perhaps could simply be due to the sudden open canopy and abundance of nutrients in the soil. In non-fire areas the mushrooms can also be quite abundant, and are often associated with certain tree species, especially in the east.

    Old apple orchards are a good site, as are ash, sycamore, tuliptree, cottonwoods, and dead or dying elms. When picking mushrooms from the forest, most sites say to pluck them by gently twisting at the base, such that you break the stem leaving the bottom in the soil so that the mycelium isn’t damaged and future morels can grow from it.

    [​IMG]

    Morels are highly edible, and in fact are a favourite among even some who aren’t so keen on mushrooms in general. Their subtle taste has been likened to mild fish (in some areas the mushrooms take the name “dryland fish” for this reason), and they’re recommended in dishes where the other flavours are likewise quiet, such as on pasta or rice.

    Mushrooms collected from the wild need only be lightly washed to be eaten; in fact, soaking them will ruin their flavour. However, they MUST be cooked prior to being eaten, as they do in fact contain a very small amount of toxin - it is enough to cause a reaction when raw, but is destroyed once the mushroom is cooked (although Wikipedia comments that occasionally even cooked morels, when consumed with alcohol, can sometimes cause a reaction).

    Although morels are generally pretty darned distinctive, there is another mushroom that can possibly be confused for them by novices. It goes by the name of false morel, for the reason that it superficially resembles the real morels. However, it is highly toxic and cannot be eaten. It tends to be chunkier than true morels, and the folds in the cap more resemble the convolutions of a brain surface than the walls of a honeycomb. However, the easiest way to tell the two apart if you’re unsure is to slice off the top of the cap. True morels are hollow, while false morels are solid inside.

    [​IMG]

    The cap of the false morel hangs around the stem like a "skirt", while the cap of the true morel is connected to the stem.

    [​IMG]

    Hopefully those who are interested will find this information helpful and I wish you Happy Hunting!!
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2009
  2. layoutshooter

    layoutshooter New Recruit

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    Great Stuff!! In Michigan we just call them "Whites and Blacks" The "Blacks" tend to emerge first and then the "Whites". Layoutshooter
     
  3. inkasnana

    inkasnana New Recruit

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    I've very rarely found any blacks, but I think that's because I never really started looking for them until the apple blossoms were out. The information I've found online about them always resembles them to a honeycomb but I've always thought of the as a sponge with a stem. :D It's important to remember that in a "true" Morel, the cap and the stem are all "one piece" with the cap just a continuation of the stem. The "false" Morels are like a stem with the cap balanced on top of it. (I can't think of any better way to describe them.)

    And as stated, ALWAYS, ALWAYS ALWAYS cook them before eating them!!! The information I posted says they just need to be lightly washed, but we always soaked them in salt water to kill any bugs that were hiding in them. ;)
     
  4. layoutshooter

    layoutshooter New Recruit

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    The "Blacks" are VERY small as well, harder to find. They have a "richer" flavor than the "Whites" Layoutshooter
     
  5. inkasnana

    inkasnana New Recruit

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    That's probably why I hardly ever found any blacks. I wasn't looking close enough! I used to do most of my hunting for them in a near-by apple orchard. It was always pleasant with the smell of all the apple blossoms in the air, well that was until the orchard was abandoned and became overgrown with weeds, ticks and snakes. Then I had to find new hunting grounds. lol
     
  6. Turtle
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    Turtle Administrator Staff Member Owner/Operator

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    Weeds, ticks and snakes. That's why I do my morel hunting at Kroger. :D
     
  7. layoutshooter

    layoutshooter New Recruit

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    No need to worry about snakes in Michigan. There is only one posionous species in the state. It is a very small rattle snake and only native to Washtenaw county. Layoutshooter
     
  8. aristotle
    No Mood

    aristotle Veteran Expediter

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    In the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky, many woodsmen search for ginseng which is sold at exorbitant prices to the Chinese as an aphrodisiac. The ginseng hunters usually wear a .22 caliber pistol loaded with birdshot and kill snakes on sight.
     
  9. inkasnana

    inkasnana New Recruit

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    The weeds and ticks I can handle. The snakes, not so much. I may be a "country girl" but I'm still a "girl" and as the song goes, "I don't like spiders and snakes!" lol
     
  10. inkasnana

    inkasnana New Recruit

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    Does Kentucky have poisonous snakes? I know there are cotton mouths, copper heads, etc down south but I don't know how far "north" they are. I wouldn't be going into those woods! lol
     
  11. aristotle
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    aristotle Veteran Expediter

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    For a certainty, we have copperheads and rattlers in the hills of eastern Kentucky. Killed several myself. Some of my relatives back home prefer to handle snakes at church. I have no such tendencies.
     
  12. inkasnana

    inkasnana New Recruit

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    *Note to self* Stay out of the woods in Kentucky! I think I'll avoid the churches too! lol

    I'll contain my mushroom hunting to the safe forests of lower Michigan. :D
     
  13. Turtle
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    Turtle Administrator Staff Member Owner/Operator

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    We've got a big pond out in front of the house. You have to be careful around there. ;)

    A while back when I was doing some work on the van, this little bugger (all 7 feet of him) kept a close eye on me from inside the barn, about 3 feet away. He's not poisonous, tho. He just keeps the rats and mice out of the barn. Still, the horses aren't real fond of him.

    [​IMG]
     
  14. inkasnana

    inkasnana New Recruit

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    7 feet long??!! EEEEK! The biggest snake I've seen in Michigan was a Blue Racer that chased me out of the apple orchard when I was about 12. At that time it looked absolutely HUGE though I'm sure it was a lot bigger to my childish imagination than it really was! lol

    My aunt's Gordon Setter (basically a black Irish Setter) used to kill any snakes that ventured into her yard and leave them at her door for a present. She wasn't exactly thrilled. Mostly garter snakes and a racer now and then, though none were much bigger than about 18" to 20" in length. I think my poor old aunt would have had a stroke if the dog had found a snake 7 feet long!

    Oh, and Turtle, I'll be staying away from your pond and barn! lol
     
  15. Turtle
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    Turtle Administrator Staff Member Owner/Operator

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    At first I thought it was lizard, actually. But even at that it would have been a pretty huge lizard. Then it slithered around the corner of the barn and came outside, maybe a foot away from where I was standing. As it moved from the barn over to underneath an outbuilding next to the barn, it moved along side of a 6-foot 2x4 that I had laying there, and it was about a foot longer than the wood. What really struck me was that the snake and the 2x4 were about the same thickness, like the business end of a baseball bat. Apparently, he's keeping well fed. I got a great picture of it, except that the lens cap was still on the lens. Excellent.

    the neighborhood kids and the nephews fish all the time in the pond, and they see snakes nearly every time they're down there, but they leave 'em alone and the snakes don't bother them. We've got a couple of herons that hang out at the pond sometimes. They'll snag a snake every now and then.

    [​IMG]
     
  16. inkasnana

    inkasnana New Recruit

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    Oh my word, I just cannot imagine having a snake that large getting that close to me. It would scare the life out of me, especially since I freak at the little snakes I do come across when fishing at a lake near my home! At least you should have a very low rodent population around your place. :)

    That's a beautiful picture of the heron. With as long as their necks are it seems a snake would slither right down to their gut. lol
     
  17. Turtle
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    Turtle Administrator Staff Member Owner/Operator

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    The size really did startle me. We see a lot of 2 and 3 foot snakes, but rarely one that large. No tellin' how many times I've been in the barn and he's been in the corner checking me out. But even though I knew that one wasn't poisonous, man, at 7 feet, ya never know. lol Those herons can grab a snake and snap their spine right at the base of the head, then slurp them up like spaghetti. It's kewl.

    We've got rattlers in the western part of the state, but they're rather rare, as well as the copperheads, which aren't so rare. The cottonmouth (water moccasins) is also very plentiful in the western part of the state, western TN, and in a few states that border the other side of the MS River. Usually about 2 1/2 feet as an adult, but they do get really large, like 6 feet or more, but again those are rare, too. Both are semi-water snakes, strong swimmers, and for the most part, both will leave you alone if you leave them alone. Escape is their preferred first option. Copperheads and cottonmouths are weird, though, in that if escape isn't immediately available, they'll just sit there, silent and still, with their mouths open, ready to strike. And they'll strike quick. But it's usually a strike of deterence, at least with the copperheads, one that says leave me alone, and is either a shallow strike, sometimes not even piercing the skin (had that happen to me twice), or it's a strike that injects very little venom. Enough to say get away, but not enough to require more than very minor medical attention, if only to ensure broken skin doesn't become otherwise infected.

    But they're easy enough to know the ones that will hurt you from the ones that won't. The copperheads and cottonmouths have a distinct head from the body, a wide head with a blunt snout. Garter snakes and other non-poisonous snakes have more of a lizard head, one that's an extention of the body, rather than a disctint one. I'm only speaking of KY snakes, so don't necessarily take this as gospel for anywhere else. For all I know, the most poisonous snake in North America looks like a lizard snake. But that's not the case with KY snakes.

    Obviously, if you're not sure, just assume they're all poisonous, and stay way from them.

    For me, it's wasps. They serve no useful purpose whatsoever. They're just mean. They should be eliminated from the planet.
     
  18. teamjdw

    teamjdw Rookie Expediter

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    anyone been to mamouth caves in kentucky? the wife and i went there acouple of years ago.cave tour was cool.however when they take u 2 the area where they have seating .they turn out the lights so you can experience the pure darkness.that was dark.but when my wife and i went 2 sit down we could not sit side by side.i sat in the row in front of her.she was right behind me.when they turned out the lights the lady 2 my left thought i was her husband.she started grabbing my crouch!i new this was not my wife so pushed her hand away.this did not stop her she did it again!finnally the lights came on she looked at me i looked at her !she was so freaked out she ran her confussed husband not far behind her.my wife was wondering why she was running away soooo i explained.we have not been back 2 kentucky since then.
     
  19. inkasnana

    inkasnana New Recruit

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    Great information on the snakes Turtle, thanks!! The garter snakes and racers in Michigan have that "lizard" look to them. Since I've never seen a poisonous snake in person, I wouldn't know the difference, but your description of the differences in the head is very helpful. I think I'll just stay out of any woods unless I'm back home. ;)

    teamjdw: That is an hilarious story! I can just imagine the embarrassment that poor woman suffered that day! LOL I went to those caves when I was about 13 with my parents. I clearly remember the part where you sit in the total and complete darkness. You just can't imagine what that is like until you've experienced it.
     
  20. layoutshooter

    layoutshooter New Recruit

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    Looks like a black snake turtle, is it not? We went to Mammoth last summer. Had a 3 day weekend. Went to Jim Beam that week end too. The place from "where the necter flows"!!! :p Layoutshooter
     

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