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), but never under pines. The Pigeon River Country State Forest is a fav 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? Have your haul checked at the Otsego County- Michigan State University Extension Office in Gaylord. Find it on the fourth floor of the J. Richard Yuill Alpine Center in Gaylord. 800 Livingston Boulevard, Suite 4A-2, 989-731-0272.The good news is that even an unsuccessful day of mushroom hunting is enjoyable! Remember to give yourself a break from looking down to take in our scenic trails, enchanting waterways and lavish countryside. Use #GaylordMichigan to share your photos on social media.
Looking for the right wine to pair with your harvest? Try venison steak topped with fresh sautéed morels, served with Thunder Bay Winery’s Chambourcian. Recommended by Cassie from The Rusty Pelican in downtown Gaylord.
Want to track the progress of this fabulous fungus across the countryside? Check out this free morel tracker! Post your findings (or keep the secret to yourself!).