As the cold winter months fade into the past and Spring officially arrives I wait patiently for the most glorious rite of the season – the coming of the great morel. This ephemeral of nature will soon be here and the search for the ever-elusive morel will begin.
It was my father-in-law who instilled in me the law of the land when it comes to morels. His number one rule: "Don't ask where we are going and don’t tell anyone where we've been”. And so we would set out – and under his tutelage I began to discover the lore of shrooming.
My first lesson was in proper equipment – my father-in-law made it clear no one was allowed to head into the woods unprepared. And having the appropriate walking stick and sack were high on the list of priorities. The two “S’s” – the foundation of any good hunt.
And who knew a lowly sack could take on such importance! I was once chastised heavily for heading out the door with a plastic grocery bag. You would have thought I had committed a double homicide. I can still hear my father-in-law’s words ringing in my ears, “Girl, I can see they sure don’t sell common sense at that university of yours.” The proper sack, I learned that year, is preferably made from cloth or mesh, as plastic does not allow the mushrooms to breathe. Onion bags are the “IT Bag” for well-schooled shroomers. With rice bags coming in a close second.
And then there is the morel mythology . . .
- where there is one, there are many
- look outward, not downward
- always leave at least one mushroom in the woods (insures they'll be more next year)
- where you find greys, yellows will follow
- whites are the last of the season
- check under or around the May Apples
- dying or dead Elm trees, Sycamore and Ash trees are your best bets for big hauls
- always pinch or cut, do not pull them out of the ground
- the best place to hunt morels is on someone else's property
- pray to the Mushroom Gods before each hunt
I anticipate the arrival of spring each year. With spring comes hope and all things renewed. My spirits are lifted, much like the sap running in the trees. We have started introducing our grandchildren to the adventure of shrooming – sharing the stories of successes and failures, of battling nature's elements, the trials and tribulations, and the importance of the two “S’s”. We are also instilling in them the golden rule of the family – “Don’t ask where we are going and don’t tell anyone where we’ve been”.