Clare County Review & Marion Press

Pat’s Bits and Pieces: Mother’s Day and the arrival of morel season

Sunday is Mother’s Day and we don’t want to forget to make Mom’s day as special as she is! Perhaps by cooking up a batch of her favorite morels – if you can find some.
This weekend is also special for another reason – it is the beginning of morel season in Michigan.
May is Morel Month and hunting those tasty fungi is a favorite pastime for loads of people. Traditionally, most morel hunters say the season to hunt for them begins with Mother’s Day weekend.
They usually pop up in the springtime, especially when warm weather arrives following a good rain. Look for their pitted, bumpy profiles near hilly areas with hardwood trees and around where a wildfire or prescribed burn has happened. The other day Jack told me people are saying they are already finding them!
You can find them in every county in the state, but morel hunters are still pretty secretive when it comes to where those woodsy treats can be found. Sometimes it is downright cloak and dagger when you ask someone where they hunt for theirs…
The woods around Mid-Michigan College are said to be good hunting grounds, but before you head into the woods to look for a patch, make sure you know how to properly identify morels for safety, the Department of Natural Resources says. There are wild mushrooms in Michigan that are poisonous and can make you pretty sick. And, all wild mushrooms should always be cleaned and fully cooked before enjoying them.
You can learn the basics about morel mushrooms from the DNR at Michigan.gov/MiMorels. They even have a map of the areas on public lands where there were prescribed burns and wildfires to help you find the places where they might grow. You can get more information from the “Midwest American Mycological Information” (MAMI) website too.
If you are lucky enough to find them on public lands or state managed lands, remember they are for personal use. You cannot resell them. In fact, Michigan’s food code requires certification to lawfully sell wild mushrooms. There’s a partner program for that offered by MAMI.
One tip I was told is to make sure the mushrooms you pick are completely connected to the stem. There are look alikes out there (poisonous ones) that look like a slightly opened umbrella. Avoid those.
There are internet sites to learn more about wild-foraged foods and how to get started hunting them.
Visit Michigan.gov/Foraging, or contact Rachel Coale at 517-930-1283.
There is even a wild mushroom clinic at Mitchell State Park in Cadillac on May 29, June 19, July 10 and August 20. To sign up go to the website.
I have been out hunting those woodsy treats since I was a kid, but morels are the only kind I trust. There are white morels and black morels and I love them both – when I can find some that is.
We never had much luck while wandering through the woods, but were lucky enough to find them growing right in our backyard when we lived on the Tobacco. We always found enough for a meal or two, but now the area around our old house is a fenced in horse pasture so I doubt that there are any growing these days.
This time of year, Jack would always go out and “walk the yard” looking for them, and usually finding some too. I was never very good at spotting them unless Jack pointed one out to me first, and then suddenly I could see them here and there.
If you do head out to hunt them, make sure to stay near a road, or carry a compass. It is easy to get turned around when you are walking in the woods and looking for mushrooms.

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