By Tom Nauman
(Editor's note: 03/03 - The page mentioned below mycoinfo.com no longer exists)
The biggest news in mushroomdom comes from the internet mushroom magazine Mycoinfo www.mycoinfo.com: "November Morels in Texas (Mycoinfo-11/18/98). Although it is not exactly something you would expect to find elsewhere, for years there have been rumors that morels can be found in Texas during the Fall. This year, the proof is in. At a recent meeting of the Central Texas Mycological Society (CTMS), someone brought in a whole bag full of fresh Morchella esculenta found about thirty miles west of Austin (exact location not to be divulged at this time) during the second week of November. Naturally, CTMS has organized a foray to the spot this coming weekend."
The sequel to this article appeared two weeks later: "A Texas Morel Tall Tale (Mycoinfo-12/01/98) Members of the Central Texas Mycological Society recently spent a late November Sunday morning hunched over in the juniper scrub woods of the Texas hill country. Their purpose? Finding morels, and yes there were many to be found. About ten people showed up and anyone with a basket was able to fill it with reasonably fresh specimens of Morchella esculenta.. They were highly caespitose (growing in clumps with bases essentially fused together) in troops under juniper bushes and trees, on rocky, limestone-based soil. This is typical habitat for Texas. The exact location? We can tell you this much - it wasn't far from the Pedernales River about 30-50 miles West of Austin."
The family almost had to hide the car keys from me. I've often thought that fall morels were possible even in Illinois. But, even though I can't resist inspecting a suspect dead elm while hunting other fall mushrooms, I've never been fortunate enough to discover any signs of morels in the fall. I was even a "Doubting Thomas" about the Texas find until I emailed Mycoinfo editor, Phil McIntosh, for more information. Phil informed me that he was one of the participants of the second article - lucky guy. A meal of dehydrated morels satisfied my appetite enough so that a quick trip to Texas wasn't necessary. But, I will be checking a few more of my favorite patches in the fall from now on.
Also found on the internet was a story about a new morel festival for the spring of '99. It will begin on May 29 and last until June 6. That should be enough information for most of you to realize it won't be anywhere in Illinois. It won't even be in the United States! The location will be Salmon Arm, British Columbia, Canada. I conversed by phone with one of the organizers, Randy Marchland. Randy is a commercial mushroom buyer/seller. He informed me that in Western Canada they don't just go walk in the woods to find morels like we do around here. The pickers would starve to death. They go to where there's been a "burn" (forest fire) the year before. Since there was a large burn near Salmon Arm last year, they are expecting abundant morels (the organizers estimate 25 tons) in the spring of '99. And, they will furnish maps!
Randy also said that it won't be an annual event (at least at Salmon Arm) because they can't predict where the next burn will be. I'll have more information as the date gets closer. The web site is http://www.olivotto.com/morel/salmon.html. By the way, Salmon Arm is about four hours north and east of Seattle.
Best wishes to all for the New Year!
Remember, whenever you want to try eating a mushroom you're not familiar with, check it in at least two field guides. If they say it's edible, try just a nibble, wait 24 hours, and if there are no ill effects then consume larger amounts.
Please feel free to contact us with questions or comments. Especially if you have ideas or suggestions for future columns: Tom and Vicky Nauman, Morel Mania, RR1 - Box 42, Magnolia, IL 61336, Phone 309-364-3319, Fax 309-364-2960.