Mushroom Hunting: A Disappointing Season

By Tom Nauman

The mushroom season of the year 2000 left a lot to be desired for Central Illinois and many other places. We missed the black morels and little gray morels almost completely. In fact, the first morels we found we three to five inch tall gray morels. The following week the medium yellow morels made there appearance. By the week after that the large yellows were out. And that was all prior to our normal peak of the first week of May.

Another indicator of the short season was the winner of the Schooner's annual contest was found on April 29. According to Jeff Lampe of the Peoria Journal Star, the 16.25 ounce giant was found by Norm Nelson of Lacon in Marshall County.

The season in other nearby states was similar according to most reports. The people in charge of the Mansfield, Indiana contest were worried because people were finding big mushrooms two weeks prior to their contest! The Muscoda, Wisconsin Festival was completely void of mushrooms as the season ended abruptly the week before their festival.

The weather was not conducive to prolonged morel growth. We had several 80+ degree days around the end of April and beginning of May. Once that temperature is reached for several days in a row the season is almost over.

A reader from Michigan reported that a group near Mesick found 1400 pounds over the course of several days. I haven't been able to get a confirmation of the report.

Author Larry Lonik departed for Canada on June 7. The season there can last into August depending on the latitude. We'll update you on his success as we learn it. An interesting note on Larry's hunting near the Arctic is that while the air temperature may be in the 90's, the mycellium nurturing the mushrooms is buried in the muskeg and therefore quite cold. He says gloves are a must or your fingers will get frostbit!

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 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,