Morel mushrooms, and the hunting of this genus, are two of my mother’s favorite things. It even makes spring that much better. From an early age, I remember heading out on horseback – or my mom heading out on horseback alone – and returning with IGA grocery bags full of the sponge-like, porous plant that was, and still is, a delicacy in our home.
There was nothing better than a mess of morels, floured and fried, to go along with a fresh mess of spring, cold-water fish.
Later on, after we’d left the farm, I lived with my mom for the summer before leaving for college, and it was during that summer that she showed me her secret to hunting morel mushrooms – dead elm trees. It had never been brought up when I was a boy, since we had our spots on the farm and they seldom disappointed.
Her tactics during that summer still bring a smile to my face. Driving around, parking and walking to dead elms spotted from a distance, she’d mention the “Spirit World” as we approached. The Spirit World was her equivalent of being in a very attentive zone, scouring the forest floor. It was in this zone that we’d be as we thoroughly searched the timber floor. Once you found that first morel, more were sure to be in the vicinity.
The sunlight hitting the mushrooms makes them almost translucent. Also, the time of year – the foliage is usually a shade of brown before spring brings everything to bloom – makes them difficult to spot.
After we’d walk and come upon one, and then many, the joy and fury of the search only intensified.
Nowadays, hunting is more difficult than I remember it being back when I was a youngster on the farm, and Mom would agree. The popularity is such where I’m from that if people have mushrooms on their property, they don’t let you take them; they want them. So, although it may not be the most ethical practice, blurring of property lines inevitably enters the mix. That meant, during that summer, longer walks with my mom.
What about you? While there are all sorts of wild theories about hunting morels, where do you look?
Caleb Regan and his wife, Gwen, live in rural Douglas County, Kansas, where they enjoy hunting, fishing, and raising and growing as much of their own food as they can. Caleb can’t imagine a better scenario than getting to work on a rural lifestyle magazine as a profession, and then living that same lifestyle right in the heartland of America. Connect with him on Google+.