I was able to sneak away from work about 4:45 this afternoon and made a quick stop by the house to grab my favorite hunting partner and headed out West of town to do a little shroomin’. Jackson was almost as eager as I was to hit the woods in search or the sometimes elusive and always tasty morel.
I love mushroom hunting in Kansas for a myriad of reasons, the absolute yumminess is the primary reason (is yumminess a word?). Let’s see why else do I relish in the pursuit of this lovely fungus? Generally, we all want what we cant have and since this quickly vanishing shroom only appears for about two weeks a year the fresh morel is what I CAN’T have about 50 weeks a year. I also love that morel hunting spans the cultural gap between the hardcore red necks and the wine drinking academics. I fancy myself somewhere in the middle of this intellectual spectrum. Multi-tasking is another resason I love hunting mushrooms. You see I have not the ability to multi-task with any other area of my life. However, when it comes to mushroom hunting I can look for shrooms, find the occasional deer shed and scout for turkey season all without having my brain short circuit from potential over load.
Now back to one of my original statements which was, morel hunting spans the gap between hardcore outdoors men and those with things such as PHD directly behind their given names. It’s true people named Dr. This and Professor That hunt morels as do those that go by Skeeter and Mad Dawg. This may seem like something inconsequential to many of you but to me it is an avenue to participate in conversation with those on a much higher pay scale than me without them turning up their nose in disdain at them mention of me shooting a coyote from 120 yards with a.243. So let me give you an example if you don’t believe me. If you click this link:
you will be taken to a wonderful recipe on the food network that was suggested via facebook as an excellent way to prepare wild morels. Now this does look like a wonderful recipe I just need someone to tell me if the local Wal-Mart carries truffle oil and I should get it in 10w-30 or synthetic. Now to show you the juxtaposition of the above link my evening meal. That’s right I spared no expense and went for the ALL BEEF hot dogs. Just in case you were wondering what the preparation time was in comparison the the 3 hours and change needed to prepare the mushroom pate I had about 20 minutes invested from start to finish. Now don’t get me wrong if I was given the opportunity to slap my gums against some of that wild mushroom pate I wouldn’t hesitate. However, if you remember another early assertion about multi-tasking then you probably already know that following that recipe while trying to get the dishes caught up and hang out with my family might be as easy as me completing my Masters degree in engineering while planning a trip to the International Space Station. Yep you got it, not gonna happen, not this week anyway.
Ok, so on to the hunt. Jackson and I got to our destination about 5:20 and wasted little time finding out first group of morels. What many seasoned mushroom hunters have learned is that morels generally come not in single spies but in battalions. So when you find one, slow down and find the many. We didn’t have much trouble in the first couple of groves finding our quarry. We figured out early on that many of the shrooms that we were cutting had just made their appearance in the past couple of days. What we have learned over the past several years is that the small to medium gray or gray black morels are the first to arrive on the scene with the larger yellow morels following shortly there after. The morels we bagged early on were about 50% gray blacks so even though we were picking them by the hundred the bag weight wasn’t extreme.
There are several questions that beginning mushroom hunters ask. First, are there poisonous mushrooms I should look out for? Answer: YES. You should do some research on line and through your local library to make sure that you can identify a false morel, which can be deadly, from a normal morel. False morels, which some call reds, are generally solid not hollow like a normal morel and can have some serious consequences to your kidneys. The mushrooms you see Jackson holding to in the picture to the left have a reddish color and are much larger than the normal morel but should not be confused with a false morel. The older a yellow morel gets the more it starts to turn reddish brown. Both of these shrooms were hollow and both were edible however, they had been up just long enough that the sow bugs and the springtails had pretty much rendered them “no good to us”, so we pitched them back into the woods.
Question number 2: When should you start looking for them? Many different answers here depending on which old timer you ask. Some answers include, the first warm rain in spring, the first week with night time temps in the 60’s, when the red buds bloom or my favorite, when your neighbor comes home with a sack full.
Question number 3: What should I use to harvest them? Answer: Make sure you bring along a knife. There is a line of thought that says you damage the potential for re-growth next year if you pull them. You should also bring along a sack with holes like you see Jackson with in the picture to the right so that as you walk you sprinkle the mold spores and actually help to replant these wonderful morsels, albeit years down the road.
I had a baseball coach that used to say “Some times you win, some times you lose and sometimes it rains.” I found out later that he stole that line from the movie Bull Durham. I also discovered today that when it comes to morel hunting when it rains during a warm spring in Kansas you always win as is illustrated in these pictures that show the spoils of one hour and twenty minutes spent in the woods with the best hunting partner a guy could have.
And if that weren’t enough we did a little turkey scouting on the way home and Jackson made some pretty devious plans for a long beard come Saturday and the open of youth turkey season. Stay tuned for what we hope is a good video or maybe two of Jackson the turkey slayer in HD. This may however prove to be unlikely due to the fact that I will have to run the camera and call while shaking uncontrollably at the thought of my little man pounding the main course for our Turkey and mushroom pate. You remember what I said about multi-tasking right?