Tuesday, April 19, 2011

2011 Morel Hunting - Solitary Excursion

I probably should have stayed home and mowed the lawn...or planted my blueberries and raspberries...or painted my hive ware...or cleaned out the chicken coop.  I could have picked any number of necessary things to do on this rare, sunny, spring day.

With free babysitting lined up for the day, I simply couldn't pass up an opportunity to get out in the woods and hunt the morels.  They're only here for a couple of weeks.  My to-do list will probably still be here months from now.

Black Morel (Morchella elata)
I'd had a dentist appointment early in the afternoon.  They tortured me of course, had blood flying everywhere and then tried to drown me.  My contacts were really bothering me after all of that.  I had put on makeup since I had to go into town and normally wouldn't have done so just to go into the woods.  The irritation in one eye made it really hard to see straight, but I still managed to turn up a few morels; twenty, mostly black.

This is the spot where I found the majority of them.  Almost all of the trees in this area were tulip poplars.  Many of the black morels I found were snuggled up close to the base of the trees at the bottom of this northwest facing slope.  The ground was evenly moist from the run-off of recent rains.  The location receives good, filtered, late afternoon sunshine.

The woods were so quiet and peaceful yesterday.  I really needed a day like this; alone and unhurried.  I spent about three hours exploring new trails.  I kept an easy pace, stopping here and there to check out a few promising spots.  Judging from the time it took me to get back, I think I only went out about three miles.

I'm not afraid to go out here by myself.  I never see a soul.  On Saturdays, you'll hear a few four-wheelers go by on the main road, but they never venture into the deep woods which are only passable on foot.  At this high elevation, I get good cellphone reception everywhere I go.

I did find a handful of dried up oyster mushrooms on a fallen tree.  They were too old and tough to bother collecting.

Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) - top view
Oyster mushrooms are almost as tasty as morels.  They are easier to find, having a longer growing season (spring and fall).  You can tell them apart from other shelf mushrooms by their straight, continuous gills and short neck.  Follow the link above to get a more detailed description of them.  There are a lot off good pictures there as well.

Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) - bottom view
I followed the ridge all the way out to its end.  I don't get to explore much when I bring someone with me.

I thought this exposed rocky shelf was interesting.  The boulders were as big as a row of townhouses.  No mushrooms out here though, as the woods turned mainly to oak and black pine.  You will not find morels there.  Trees are the best way to judge a potential spot.

Here's a cluster of Devil's Urns I found.  They come up just before the morels.  I always see a few.

The Devil's Urn (Urnula craterium)
I found a snail crawling on the bottom of this dry, woody shelf  fungi.  I thought he made for a neat picture.  :)

On my way back out, I found a solitary yellow morel just emerging in my favorite patch.  I had scanned the area lightly on my way in and missed it.  When these are up, they are everywhere.  I can't wait to come back for them in a few days and hopefully get a bag full!

Yellow Morel (Morchella species)
This was the day's take.  Not a lot to brag about, but better than coming home empty handed.  The black morels had been up for awhile and were very dry and brittle.  I tried hard not to beat them up as I was hiking, but they did suffer a little.  I think I will dehydrate these and powder them to use in mushroom soup.

2 small yellows and 18 black morels
I've got about twenty chickens to process on Thursday.  Rain is predicted for most of the week, which in this case is a good thing.  Friday will be my next trip out.

No comments:

Post a Comment