Why would someone walk for hours up and down rugged terrain through briar patches, woodlots, field edges, draws, creek bottoms, river bottoms and insect-infested timber during April and May? Does the entire local population go insane during this time?
It can be summed up by a single word — fungus. Humongous fungus feeds the mushroom fever. To most city folks the names button top, elephant ear, beefsteak and morel, mean very little. To the avid “shoomer” it means total exhaustion and a slice of heaven.
Wild mushrooms present themselves during the months of April and May in this part of the United States, while the southern states’ season start earlier and the northern states a little later. Mushrooms for the expert hunters have a spring and fall season. Ninety-nine percent of the hunters opt for the spring season since many of the autumn mushrooms look identical to other autumn fungi that are toxic and potentially fatal if consumed.
I have a friend who hates morels. He threatens yearly to grab his golf club and chop a few down. I told him many people
enjoy the hunt and don’t eat them. I’m guessing he got really sick as a child after eating them. He apparently holds a grudge. I suggested that he picks a bunch to sell, but he said, “I won’t do that to another human being.”
A mess of fried mushrooms is a feast to me. The only thing better would be more mushrooms. If you throw in some fresh wild turkey and crappie fillets, then you have a meal that royalty would envy. From the amount of cars parked along the highways, I would submit that I am not alone in this passionate pursuit of table fare.
Lucky for me I had a great dad who dedicated his free time to teaching me about the outdoors. I started in the woods before I could walk by Pop carrying me. I learned a lot. The only thing he couldn’t teach me was to have better eyesight. I ended up with glasses by the middle of second grade.
Some people have a knack for seeing mushrooms. I have the ability to trip over or step on them. I have improved greatly over the years, but, as in all things, there are those who can see them as if they have the vision of Superman. I lack that ability.
I depend on common sense and a lot of luck to find them. I often find more ticks than mushrooms. Without the proper winter snow-melt and early rains, the mushroom crop will be poor. I have witnessed only a handful of seasons with a surplus of mushrooms. Maybe that explains why they cost so much to buy. They are like little pieces of gold on the food market.
I strongly advise gathering up the family and giving this a try this spring. It is a great family activity and a great source of exercise.
If you find a good spot then guard your secret or the following year you’ll find stumps of picked mushrooms, or everyone’s vehicle that you told about your spot the previous year parked directly in your mushroom spot.
Wear bug spray. Don’t trespass. Don’t litter. And have a blast. You may not find pounds of mushrooms, but you will make tons of memories.