Morel mushroom hunting: How to find morels in Michiana

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By: Kevin Bullard

Photo supplied/Kevin Bullard

Morel mushroom hunting season is set to begin in northern Indiana. Licenses are not required, but what is required is knowing what to look for, where to look, and then going out and picking them.

Here are some tips from a local mushroom hunting enthusiast and certified mushroom identification expert Kevin Bullard of Bullard’s Farm Market (5220 Middlebury St., Elkhart).

Bullard’s family has lived on the family farm for over 125 years. As soon as Kevin could walk, he was hunting mushrooms on his grandfather’s farm in St. Joseph County. The memories and the thrill of hunting mushrooms is what it’s all about.

TIME OF YEAR

Spring is the time when morels are at their peak. In northern Indiana, early- to mid-May and into early June is the usual hunting time.

The beginning of shroomer season usually happens after a warm spring rain and when nights warm up to no colder than 40 degrees. It’s said that morel mushrooms will suddenly appear when oak leaves are the size of a mouse’s ear.

ENVIRONMENT AND TERRAIN

When the season begins, the earliest morels can be found on south-facing hillsides or ditch banks. This is where the sun warms the soil first.

Morels are more likely to be found in woods, lowlands, creek sides, yards and orchards. Morels depend on nutrients found in the soil, and the best type of soil to find them in is moist and high in organic matter.

HABITAT

Morels are “mycorrhizal,” meaning they form relationships with the roots of trees. The most common trees to find them near are the elm, ash, tulip poplar and apple. It is helpful to learn about trees in your area.

Another good place to look is in areas with disturbed ground or a lot of downed trees.

DURING THE HUNT

The first consideration for mushroom hunting is to respect private property. You must obtain permission from landowners to hunt on their properties.

Being dressed appropriately is important on the field trip, too. Long pants, boots, long sleeve shirts and hats are just a few suggestions. A walking stick is a valuable tool to have to turn over leaves without having to bend over.

Carrying drinking water is a must, as well as a breathable bag to put your “mess” of mushrooms in. Mushrooms should be cut or pinched to avoid extra sand and dirt getting into your bag.

IDENTIFICATION OF ‘MORCHELLA ESCULENTOIDES’

Morels have three key features: pits and ridges, a hollow interior and a cap that is broadly connected to the stem. There are many pictures of morels on the Internet and in field guides.

Leave morels with soft or mushy caps alone. And remember: when it doubt, throw it out.

COOKING 

There are many sites on the Internet with recipes for morel mushrooms. However, the favorite, traditional way to prepare morels is quick and simple.

  1. Cut your fresh mushrooms in half lengthwise, and soak them in salt water to remove bugs and debris.
  2. Pat the clean morels dry with a paper towel, and cover the pieces with flour and a little salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Melt butter in a non-stick pan, and fry until golden brown. Enjoy!
If you have questions for Kevin Bullard about morel mushrooms or fresh, local produce, he can be reached at Bullard’s Farm Market at 574-293-3276 or on the market’s Facebook page.

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