Mushroom Hunting: An Early Spring?

By Tom Nauman

Vicky and I received a phone call that started the morel season this past week. The caller was Leroy Paden of Horton, Kansas. Leroy is the president of The National Morel Mushroom Hunter's Association. The good news was that Leroy was soon leaving for Louisiana to go morel hunting. The bad news (at least we think so) is that he's about three weeks too early. But it's not Leroy's fault. We place the blame on El Nino.

We heard on a recent weather report that this is the sixth winter on record in Central Illinois that the thermometer has not gone below zero degrees. The effect on the upcoming mushroom crop is, in my opinion, going to make for an early season. The seasons for 1996 and 1997 were each about two weeks late. Maybe this is Mother Nature's way of playing "catch up".

The reason it could be bad news is that we host the Illinois State Morel Mushroom Hunting Championship. This will be our third year. We decided that for our area there are always mushrooms on the first weekend of May. Therefore , the Championship is held on the first Saturday of May. This could be the year that proves us right or wrong. On the bright side, if it is an early season, the mushrooms found on May 2 should be bigger in size.

A little more about Leroy Paden and The National Morel Mushroom Hunter's Association (NMMHA). I can't remember if we found them or they found us, but it was via the Internet. For a nominal fee you can become a member and as a member you can get reports of where Leroy is hunting at and how he's doing. And, through the magic of the net the reports are current. Their stated mission is "To provide our members with current and accurate information about morel mushrooms". Leroy has been a 'shroomer for 50 years and has hunted throughout the U.S. and Canada. He and his wife, Judy, also serve morel specialties in their restaurant. It must be Judy that updates the web page on a daily basis as I don't think Leroy is anywhere near a computer during the spring. Maybe someday I'll be lucky enough to accompany him. You can view there website at or we have a link to them on our page at Or you can write to NMMHA at: 712 Central, Horton, Kansas 66439.

In other news, we received our copy of "McIlvainea-Journal of American Amateur Mycology" last week. We always check the mushroom poisoning case registry by John H. Trestrail, III, RPh, ABAT. According to the report, there were 76 reports of mushroom poisoning in the U.S. in 1996 with a total of 84 patients treated. The article doesn't say there were any fatalities and none were listed in the symptoms. The worst year for toxic mushrooms appears to be July 1986 to June 1987 with 201 reports/201 patients treated.

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.

The new Morel Mania catalog is available. To get one, phone or mail your address to us. Or, they're available at our booth at Crafter's Marketplace at Glen and University in Peoria.

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.