‘Mushroom Joe’ shows the secrets to morel mushroom hunting in Upper Michigan

Published: Jun. 10, 2022 at 8:17 PM EDT
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Foraging is a popular hobby here in the Upper Peninsula. For most scavengers, morel season is their time to show off their skills.

They are difficult to find and coveted by many for their unique taste. But morel mushrooms are not the typical fungi you see in the grocery store.

“They’re aromatases, where most of the mushrooms people are familiar with are basidiomycetes,” said Joe Lane, co-owner of Myconauts. “That’s a degree of difference similar to reptiles and mammals. That’s why the texture of morels is so different from what we normally find and that’s part of the reason they are really sought after.”

Another reason they are so sought after is because of their location. They are quite the hiders and Lane says they do not always pop up where you expect them to.

“Finding morels based on location is such a tricky question because often, people find them by their mailbox,” said Lane.

Morels are unpredictable in where they will grow year to year, but thankfully Lane gave us some tricks to help in the search.

“Areas that have been burnt, finding tree associations, they grow along spring wildflowers,” said Lane.

If you do not know where some previous burns have been the DNR will release prescribed burns in the area. Morels could start popping up within that same year.

“You will often find morels in this area because the trees are stressed after being burned and the morels’ mushrooms are like this is our last chance to produce spores,” Lane explained.

The Myconauts co-owner has some interesting theories about why morels tend to grow in burned areas.

“A theory of mine is that morel mushrooms have synergistic relationships with specific bacteria that helps them form spore bodies. I think that maybe those fires will select for more of those bacteria cultures,” said Lane.

Now you know where to look and you are ready to grab your wicker basket and start foraging. There are a few different types of morels you could run into.

“There are a bunch of different types of morels. There’s the half-free morels, the look alike, black, white. I found some black and white ones the other day. It gets tricky with the half-free morels because they look like the false morels, but the false morels are cobwebby and thick on the inside. The ones you want are completely hollow,” Lane explained.

If you are lucky enough to snag a few or hit the jackpot, Lane says he enjoys eating morels by just giving them a rough chop and sautéing them in some butter, garlic and salt and pepper.

The DNR has tips on how you can collect and properly prepare and cook wild morels click here

Morel hunting is great for the whole family to get outdoors and enjoy nature! Happy hunting!

For another inactive Michigan morel map click here

Let’s recap:

- Location: tree association, prescribed burned areas,

- Season: Spring (Mid May- June) stay up to date with what people are finding downstate

- Watch out for: False morels aka beefsteak

- Dress appropriately

- Beware of ticks

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