The Ins and Outs of Morels: Episode 2

The Ins and Outs of Morels: Episode 2

 Foraging is always about locating the first one, once you do, then it's about slowing the whole thing way down and seeing what's there. If I'm teaching a mushroom hunting course or need Wild Mushrooms for market in a time crunch, I use the scouring approach. I instruct participants to freeze for 2 minutes and crouch where you are, as you do so scour the ground in a grid with your eyes, starting by your feet and working outwards. I personally like to get flat out in a prone position and look parallel to the ground so it appears as a horizon and that really makes them stand out. I circle the dripline of the tree ( imagine the canopy of the host tree as an umbrella in the rain, where would the water drip, that's the dripline) looking from low ground vantages to high which put things at eye level.

I'm also looking at where the spores would wash down slope and to see if there are any other host trees with overlapping roots. I'm not in a hurry when I'm doing this, I take all the time I need to check every little nook, log, rock, cranny, shrump of leaves, bark hump, thick brush or briars and any other spot one could be hiding especially where wildlife like deer can't freely access it. No camoflauge on earth is more effective than morels in my opinion, however in the rain and early morning alpenglow they pop harder against their background. So take your time and double check your triple check from different angles, it's worth the time to do so, then come back every few days for a week or two to look again.

Just like in tomatoes or pepper in your garden, if you deny the organism the ability to reproduce via mature fruit, it will divert that effort to other fruits to ensure reproductive success. Which is to say that, picking one may cause others you can't see, that are under the litter to accelerate their growth and mature in response. In essence, picking one or two may lead to three or four more etc a few days later in the same spot, it's not always the case but it seems to be a thing sometimes.

Just like training a shed dog, truffle dog or blood trailing dog, you can train a k9 to do the hard work of locating Morels for you. It's a simple scent training exercise with an Morel oil that is applied to a ball or other item and hidden, the dog seeks it, finds it, is rewarded heavily for it and this game goes on all year until the season arives and you go afield to master the art together.

There are "special glasses" on the market which are made of stacked lense filters that are a tool to assist you in finding more fruitng bodies once you locate a spot with one. These morel eyes are suposedly great for finding sheds too. I was sent a few pairs to try years ago, I gave em' an honest shot and let the 100+ participants that I taught to forage for spring edibles that year use them too. In the end I gave them away because I didn't personally find them helpful.

Under UV exposure at 365-395 nanometers, Morels do appear to fluoresce.  I have personaly delved into this and it is a thing, but its not very eyeball friendly without specific safety glasses and once again is a tool to possibly find more vs a reliable seeking method.. However, if you go night hunting for them with a regular 700 lumen light you'll be more likely to see them because they tend to pop more.

Thermal Vision however is a good way to use a technological device to aid in finding overlooked morels. Fungi, including the Ascomycetes like Morels thermal regulate, which means they heat and cool themsleves. Therefore when its cool to cold outside and Morels are present in the landscape they appear on thermal vision quite easily. Likewise when it gets hot out, they appear as a colder spot. If you're on a budget there are many thermal vision products for the HVAC industry that clip on to your phones camera available online. If you've earned a thermal vision scope for predator hunting, usuing that to find them while the rifle is attached may be an interesting new definition of "Morel Hunting"..

These are all tools which may assist you in locating more mushrooms once you find the first one. I personally do not employ any of them and use the time tested approach of just looking. By which I mean, I shut my brain off and only see what's truly there with zero inner dialogue, no anticipation or desire, I just sit and look with my inner seas calm and quiet. Often I'll sit and relax for a minute and then I see many more, if I stay relaxed and sit awhile longer instead of jumping up and grabbing the spotted fruits of my laborious endeavor I will often see even more. It may not work for you but it's my personal process and I find great value in it even if I do not walk away with a mountain of mushies. When the time crunch is on or I'm teaching morel foraging classes I can't afford this personal luxury of zen and I have to get work did, so I use the scouring approach in those times moving fast and hard through the landscape.

However you seek or find them, the art and science of Morels is for every person able bodied person in the family regardlesss of age and seeking them is among Americas favorite outdoor activities. Matter of factly, children see morels way better than adults because of their lower to the ground perspective. Kids have tons of energy and their busy little hands are great for picking while patient adults bag them and help guide them on how to harvest.  If at all humanly possible I encourage you to get out with your family and gather together in search of mushrooms, our kids pick with us and we would kill to have our extended family close enough to participate. Less spry folks you may know likely enjoy morels and if they can't get out to seek them and no one in their family is interested in hunting them you might be able to swap a few mushrooms for some intel. I have been asked by a few older folks I know to retrieve some mushrooms for them and given a location they hitorically found them in to do so. Sitting around playing cards and listening to elders makes them happy and is never time wasted in my opinion, it might lead to a honey hole or 2 as well. Some of my fondest memories are combing coal mine spoil banks down home with my cousins and Uncles filling grocery sacks full of morels and eating fried mushrooms after.

Our "Morel Spots" are considered family treasure and are treated as if they were a gold boullion locked away in a Swiss vault that is willed to our children. Not just for the food they provide but the sacrednes of our collective time spent as humans be-ing together outside in nature as god intended. I hope you the reader start building your family treasure chest filled with the yellow gold of Morels this year, as long as it isn't in one of our spots of course!

Join me next time when I walk you through the insiders guide to everything you ever wanted to know about buying or selling morels in Episode 3. And.. in case you were wondering, yes we are gonna talk about growing them in Epside 4.

Happy trails and good luck!

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