Posts Tagged ‘wild mushrooms’

It’s ostensibly quite easy to mushroom hunt. You grab a sack, go for a walk in the woods, find mushrooms and pick them.  Really though, there is so much more to consider.  If you remember my blog from last month about Siloam Springs State Park you might recall I promised to tell you about Morel Mushroom hunting.

So here goes: 90% of what I know. 10% I’m not telling.

Clinton Begley, Carson Tortorigie and Jordan Goehl and their mushroom haul.

When? The first thing you need to know is when to start looking. People have been finding noshable vegetation in the forest forever, and everyone has a different “sign” to let them know that it’s time for Morels. I have an uncle who used to call mushrooms his “other tax day refund,” therefore he believed April 15 was the day to go.  My grandpa’s formula was two weeks after the dogwoods start to bloom, but it has to rain and be at least 50 degrees at night. Me? My sign is a plant called a May Apple. This little umbrella shaped plant is ubiquitous in the forest, and when its little white blossoms appear, I say it’s go-time for mushroom hunting.

What to bring? Being prepared to go mushroom hunting is very important. You are out in a bunch of trees that have just awakened from winter, and if you ask me, they seem a little cranky about it. Wear long pants (for thorns), good shoes (for walking), a hat (to keep ticks out of your hair) and a jacket (because it’s colder under the trees). Also, bring a few bags to put your prizes in. Make sure they’re not easy to rip, lest a thorn bush snag your bag and redistribute your findings into the forest.  Also, bring something to drink, because you’ll be hiking all day.  It’s usually just wishful thinking, but I also like to bring along a big garbage bag, just in case I hit the mother-lode.

Where are they? Mushrooms don’t grow in all of the woods around here. I can’t explain to you why. For instance, I’ve always had good luck at Siloam Springs, but have never found a mushroom in the woods near my grandma’s house. Before you go, find out if mushrooms have ever been found in the area, and always get permission before going on private land.

No, seriously, WHERE are they? My dad always says that mushrooms are wherever you least want to be. It seems to be true. See that stand of thorn bushes at the bottom of that drainage gully? They’re probably under there. Other people will tell you to look for fallen maple trees or in creek beds. Some say they have to be where some sunlight filters to the ground, but not in direct sun. Some say they’re by the base of oak trees but only on the west side. I have no idea what to tell you here. I’ve seen them everywhere. As a matter of fact, two years ago, my husband found four growing in our backyard on 14th street in Quincy. I like to imagine that the mushrooms have little feet like in Mario Brothers games, and at night they run around the forest and hide.

I Found Mushrooms! Now What? Good for you. When you get home, take your bags straight to the kitchen sink. Cut each mushroom in half length-wise and put them all in a sink full of cold water. Let them soak for at least an hour. This step gets all of the dirt and little ants out of the mushrooms. Then lay them out on a paper towel to dry. They can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a few days. My family generally cooks a mess of mushrooms by dipping them in one beaten egg, giving a light coat of seasoned flour and pan-frying them in batches.  I’ve been more adventurous in the last few years, and some of my favorite applications are making Wild Mushroom Risotto (add black truffle oil on the top and this is just heaven), Homemade Pizza with Wild Mushrooms (make this Italian Style, using garlic olive oil instead of tomato sauce and goat cheese instead of Mozzarella), or Wild Mushroom Soup (I like to make mine with lots of fresh thyme and plenty of roasted garlic).

Happy hunting and good luck.  I’ll be looking in my top-secret-never-fail-mushroom-location. I’ll give you a clue to find it: it’s near some trees by some grass in the neighborhood of a creek somewhere in the county.

Mwaa ha ha ha!

Laura Sievert

*A special thanks to Clinton Begley for the Morel photographs.

Original Post April 8, 2011

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