Morels are often described as the “steak” of the mushroom world, a delicacy hidden among last autumn’s remaining dried leaves and the bright green mossy cover of early spring. While mouthwateringly delicious, this most sought after tidbit can be difficult to find, to say the least.
We have some helpful hints for those wishing to seek out this coveted treat, and believe me, you’ll need them! Mushroom picking spots are nearly sacred in our neck of the woods and no one is about to give up their GPS coordinates and risk missing out on one savory morsel!
Where: Look in sandy soil, near tall trees—typically elm, ash and poplar trees, sometimes fruit trees (old orchards are awesome), and sometimes under pines. The Pigeon River Country State Forest is prime hunting ground for morel seekers. This Pigeon River Map will help you find your way around our favorite stretch of wilderness.
When: Head out about six weeks after the snow has melted. Morels like things warm and moist (not soggy), so a day following a spring rain improves your odds. Hunt when daytime highs have hovered in the 60s and nights have gone no lower than the 40s.
How: Slowly, patiently and carefully. Pinch and twist the stem at ground level, leaving the roots and a few whole mushrooms to reproduce again next season.
Tip: Collect morels in a mesh or net sack—an onion bag is perfect. Not only will the holes allow your mushrooms to breathe and keep them from turning to mush, but they can cast their spores as you hike, hopefully inspiring growth in new spots.
Identification: Like many mushrooms, morels have lookalikes. Uncertain you’ve got the real McCoy? The Michigan DNR has a page to help you learn more about morels.
The good news is that even an unsuccessful day of mushroom hunting is enjoyable! Remember to give yourself a break from looking down to view wildlife, explore scenic trails and appreciate the forest surrounding you. In the end, it’s all about being outdoors and appreciating all nature has to offer.