**Disclaimer** This is NOT a mushroom identification/field guide. I highly suggest that you take a mushroom course with an expert at a local college or join your local Mycological society and learn how to identify Morel mushrooms. This is how to find morels, not identify them. This simply an aid to those who have already learned how to properly and safely identify this mushroom. **
Ah, the morel mushroom.
To those in the mushroom know, merely saying the name brings up visions of traipsing through the woods, fervently hunting these culinary gems with the knowledge weighing heavily upon your shoulders that you only have mere weeks every year to harvest this famed mushroom.
I wrote yesterday about how it's a family tradition to go hunting morel mushrooms every spring, whether it's here in Alberta or Manitoba, depending on where we are at the harvest time.
While I am not an expert by any means, I did receive many, many questions about my weekend mushroom pursuits and promised a few people that I was going to write what I could about what I've learned over the years.
So here goes everything and nothing at the same time.
1) Learn when morels usually start popping out of the ground in your specific area.
This can be found by searching online and while people won't tell you where they are finding morels, you are certainly going to hear when they are finding them! If nothing else, we mushroom hunters like to crow to all that will listen about our success and for valid reason; mushroom foraging can be a thankless, fruitless and frustrating pursuit some days.Almost every time you find them will be matched with a less successful outing.
In central Alberta around the Red Deer area it has been the past two weekends, from June 1st to the 8th. We found beautiful, fresh morels the weekend of June 1st and this past weekend a mixture of fresh and slightly dried morels. This usually means that the season is peaking for that area, when you find older morels mixed with new. We will be going out next weekend to make sure that we get every single one however!
If you are looking out towards the mountains, then things get going a week or two later. It all depends on ground temperature, precipitation amounts and sunlight.
Easy as falling up a set of stairs, right?
2) Listen to those old Ukrainian Baba tales, with a grain of salt.
It has been said for many generations in my family that when the wild strawberries blossom, the wood violets are in bloom and the poplar trees have leafed that it's time to start looking for morels. This sage wisdom of my elders is always bang on, but the “grain of salt” in this advice is that morels will appear any time after this happens, not at the exact same time. The strawberries have been in bloom since May 25th (at least the first I saw of them) so thus we have been foraging since May 25th with success finally coming to us the weekend after.
The wood violets are the easiest to spot with their beautiful purple hues hovering just above the ground in the spring.
3)Figure out where you are going to search.
Know someone who has a farm and will let you traipse about? Live in a city with large treed parks and natural areas? If not you might just have to look up where there is Crown Land to go and search on. Crown land is owned by, as it sounds, the crown, but is open to the public. Check the regulations before you go, some land you have to get permission to forage on. The same goes for provincial parks, the regs have changed so that you can ask for verbal permission from a conservation officer to forage in a provincial park. Most have areas that have been cleared slightly to put in campgrounds and paths making it perfect for morel hunting. The amenities don't hurt either, having an outhouse close by lets you mushroom hunt all day long!
Next up tomorrow, the where and the how's of hunting for morel mushrooms in Alberta!
Thanks for reading everyone!