By Tom Nauman
Spring is sprung. The grass is riz'. I wonder where dem mushrooms is. It's a question mushrooms hunters are often asked. And it's often asked innocently enough with mixed results. Being "in the business" and with the wonders of the internet, we are probably asked that question more than anyone.
Here are some examples. Do you know of the closest shroomin' field to Pinellas County? Are there morels in Central Pennsylvania? Could you please advise me when the morels start near Janesville? Again, the queries are innocent enough. Let's look at them one at a time.
Do you know of the closest shroomin' field to Pinellas County? First of all, it helps tremendously to know that Pinellas County is in the state of Florida - Tampa area. Morels can be found in Florida, but they are very rare. I personally have never hunted morels there, so I don't feel qualified to answer. One of the wonders of the Internet is the ease of communications it provides. The "Sightings" page hosted by Morel Mania is a documentation of all the reports we've received since 1998. The postings are sorted by state and date. You can get an idea of the approximate time to start looking in your area. We've had reports from Lousiana, Alabama, Georgia, and even Hawaii; but not Florida. So the closest shroomin' field to Pinellas County that I know of is in Tennessee.
Are there morels in Central Pennsylvania? This one is a little easier. Yes, there are morels in Central Pennsylvania. Again, I've never hunted there, but know plenty of people who have. Central Pennsylvania hunting is a little different than Central Illinois in that there are elevation changes. In Central Illinois the hills we have are where the prairie drops to a river bed. So what we really have are valleys. We know that mushrooms will probably appear at the top of the south facing slope before they appear at the bottom of the north facing slope. The highest elevation in Pennsylvania is three times that of Illinois and probably ten times any point in Central Illinois. So in Pennsylvania you need to know that the season travels to the north at the rate of 100 miles per week and up the mountain at the rate of 1000 feet per week.
Could you please advise me when the morels start near Janesville? No, but you can figure it out for yourself. Check your local weather reports. The season will begin when the overnight low does not drop below 60 degrees for three nights in a row. That's when the black morels will start, about a week later look for the half-free morels to begin, and a week after that the greys and yellows. It is all contingent upon the amount of moisture and warmth. Each of the different kinds may be around for several weeks, so it may be possible to find them all on the same day. Also it is more dependent on the ground temperature than air temperature and the ground temperature will be cooler in the center of the woods or on the north facing slopes than the south edge of the woods and the south facing slopes. So you could find black morels on the north side of a hill (early season) and yellow morels on the south side (mid season) on the same day. The season will continue until the daytime high temperatures reach 85 degrees for three days in a row.
And again, we're going to refer you to the "Sightings" page http://www.morelmania.com/6Sightings/index.html for 2002 to see when your neighbors start finding them. Also watch for entries from areas 100 miles south of you. The season travels 100 miles per week so plan accordingly. Also check prior years entries for a rough idea of when to expect them.
Do you want to buy fresh morels? Through a special arrangement with http://www.morelmaster.com/ you may place your order now for shipment in season. If you mention Morel Mania, you'll save $2 per pound
For more information about the Seventh Annual Illinois State Morel Mushroom Hunting Championship or to get further details on registration, contact organizers Tom and Vicky Nauman, R.R. 1, Box 42, Magnolia, Ill. 61336, or call 309/364-3319. Information is also available on the internet at http://www.morelmania.com
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. All past articles are available http://www.morelmania.com/5Mushrooms/index.html. 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, Tom@MorelMania.com.