The morel mushroom (also called yellow morels or sponge mushrooms) is known around the world but is most prevalent in the northern hemisphere. In North America it is found from Texas to Alaska, in each state. I have great childhood memories of going down to the creek on my grandparents farm and hunting for morels with my cousins. I think one spring we found a basket full.
Morel mushrooms are probably the most recognizable and sought after edible mushroom. Note that there is a “false” morel that is poisonous. See identification cues from the Minnesota Harvester Handbook’s fact sheet. Morels usually emerge annually in the spring when there has been adequate rainfall. In southern MN they can be found in late April through May depending on the rainfall and temperature, northern MN may see morels into June.
Morels can be found in many landscapes but most commonly are found in woodlands or woody edges. It seems like morels prefer to grow under or around decaying elms, ash, poplar and apple trees. Other preferred sites include south facing slopes, burned (forest fire) or logged woodlands and disturbed areas. When harvesting wild mushrooms it is recommended that you pinch or cut the stem just above the soil and to leave the base of the mushroom in the soil. Also use an onion bag to collect the mushrooms.
Prepare for a walk in the woods, wear proper clothes and boots, and mosquitoes and ticks may also be part of the activity. Mushroom hunting can be a great family outing. Take a camera.
If you are interested in learning and socializing with Minnesotan’s who love to hunt and eat mushrooms, the Minnesota Mycological Society may offer this fellowship: www.minnesotamushrooms.org
Warning: Many wild mushrooms are poisonous and can be fatal. Positively identify the mushroom you pick and plan to eat. An old mushroom hunters’ axiom states “When in doubt, throw it out”, this is a good rule to follow.
If you believe you have ingested a poisonous mushroom, immediately contact Poison Control (1-800-222-1222), and save an uncooked sample of the mushrooms you consumed for the purpose of identification. This can be critical for determining the proper course of treatment.
The Minnesota Harvester Handbook addresses sustainable natural resource harvest and markets. This resource – developed by the University of Minnesota Extension and many contributors – demonstrates the breadth and diversity of natural resources found in and around the state’s woodlands. For more non-timber forest products to harvest this spring, purchase a copy of the Minnesota Harvester Handbook.
Keep posted to MyMinnesotaWoods for a monthly fact sheet on non-timber forest products.