Hunting Morel Mushrooms

There was a story on NPR today about hunting morel mushrooms. I found it interesting; apparently the mushrooms cannot be planted or grown, and they're regarded as an expensive treat. And some foragers will take some pains to protect the secrecy of their finds.

[Addition] And if you'd like to try your hand yourself at the morels, here are some tips.

Morels aren't cultivated, but I believe dedicated mushroom hunters carry their finds in a mesh bag so the spores can return to the forest floor as they walk back to "civilization." Which suggests that you could possibly "propitiate" the morel guardians and encourage them to make more--perhaps in a familiar environment closer to your own home. Like a nice sycamore with good exposure and a comfy bed of leaf mold... offer them regular libations of beer... Could be a nice place to hang out; who knows!

Magpie's picture

There are a few folks who have cultivated morels and other choice mushrooms. These mushrooms are associated with plant roots, and can't survive without them. Morels will often turn up in old apple orchards where the trees are starting to succumb--in some areas the lack of older (susceptible) trees is leading to the lack of morels. I heard from some colleagues that eastern WA and the ID panhandle are having a good season.

Some techniques allow the roots of trees to be inoculated directly, but spreading the spores about from a wire basket is probably good enough for most mushroomers, provided that they don't overharvest their local area.

Just remember that morels and other mushrooms have the tendency to bioaccumulate heavy metals--one or two mushroom hunters gets lead or arsenic poisoning every year on the east coast because abandoned apple orchards have lots of morels, but also a long history of being sprayed with lead arsenate!

Sweet Tatorman's picture

It's been a poor year so far in my area. I have found a total of exactly one. If this continues it will be the third year in a row that has been poor. In a good year I may find a couple hundred though the ones locally are quite small compared to some of the pictures one sees. I don't know if there is any basis for the observed correlation but most of the poor morel years for me have had the compensation of being stellar years for Chanterelles.