Morel season doesn't last very long. Maybe a month at best. April 10th at the earliest we begin looking for the black morels (Morchella elata). We used to have a great patch for those, but it has been bulldozed and is barely recognizable anymore and no longer productive. The ones we like best though are the yellow or gray morels (M. esculenta and M. deliciosa). When you see the may apples suddenly up, it is time to look for those. There is also another variety common around here called the half-free morel, but it is thin and fragile and grows very randomly, not in large patches like the others do. The half-frees we usually find midseason between the other two.
When we found these yellow morels on Saturday, they were a bit small, most with caps about 1 1/2" tall. They are just getting started and this week will be the best time to find them.
My brother is supposed to go out with me on Thursday. My dad took us a couple of times to hunt them on my great-grandpa's farm when we were very young and I don't think my brother has been since. A friend of his hunts morels and he told him that the hollow ones were poisonous and the solid ones were edible. This is completely backwards, just so you know. The solid ones, the false morels, are poisonous (Gyromitra esculenta, Verpa bohemica, and others). Fortunately they are uncommon around here. You can easily tell the difference because true morels are completely hollow from cap to stem. False morels will be solid or their caps will connect to the stem at the peak of the cap, whereas in true morels the caps are connected to the stem at the base of the cap. I told my brother he needs to reconsider some of his "friends". LOL
I also told my brother that it is upon pain of death that I reveal my secret morel hunting patches to him. Under no circumstances is he to tell anyone where we went or to take another human being, not even a girlfriend. The location was revealed to me under the same terms by my father-in-law, but now that he has passed, I barely have anyone who will go with me. My husband will go once or twice if he has time. He loves to eat them, but he is not as dedicated to hunting them as I am. There is a true saying that goes "anyone foolish enough to ask a morel hunter where they found them is probably also foolish enough to believe the answer".
This little morel was hiding in between a fiddlehead fern and the base of a tree. I thought this was a neat shot.
We always find neat things out in these woods. There are several old home sites with the foundations and remains of what was once a dwelling place. It's hard to imagine someone living in these steep, nearly inaccessible woods. You can still tell where the clearings were as they remain mostly grassy even today. We've found old bottles, wrought iron bed frames (which my mother-in-law has used as a quaint trellis for a climbing rose), pieces of wooden and metal farm equipment and other discarded signs of human life. One particularly enchanting spot has an open well, wild apple and pawpaw trees and a thick blanket of daffodils of several old varieties which have multiplied to cover a large area. We've dug and taken home several starts of iris, peony and other hardy perennials.
Upon reaching the crest of a hill above a rocky spring I looked up and saw this unusual tree with its comical smirk. Having once been part of a fence line, it had a barbed wire fu manchu mustache. How cool is that? : )
There are also piles and piles of mossy, weathered rocks everywhere you look. I would love to haul them all home for use in my flower garden and for landscaping around the house. Most were piled to the side either when fields were cleared or as logging roads pushed through. The area was logged about 20 years ago. Trees and brush come up through most of the old roads and the area is mostly inaccessible except by foot.
It's a really neat place. It feels so far away from civilization, although in truth it is maybe a 20 minute drive from my mother-in-law's house. My father-in-law began exploring the area back in the 1980's. When he would get off from work at the coal mines, he would come out here and hunt ginseng and morels. Most of the land is still owned by the logging company today. Very little of it is posted. I love and look forward to the yearly ritual of coming out here and hiking the hills.
I plan to go back out Thursday and/or Saturday of this week. I hope to come back with a bagful of mushrooms! It's always fun to go, even if you only find a few.