Keith D. ~ Director of F&B AKA: Forager Extraordinaire!
Where I live, April was the driest April on record in the Baltimore area. Not a good thing when looking for mushrooms. As I have said, moisture, temperature, and time of year are the main factors when looking for mushrooms. Of course there are others, but out of all of these, the single biggest factor is moisture. Yes, I did find a few morels two weekends ago at the beginning of the season, but not in the quantity that one can expect when conditions are optimum. Last week, we were threatened by rain all week, but somehow it always managed to miss us. Then finally the rain came, and after a dry spell, it needs to be a soaker, and it was. So when I went out for a walk at the beginning of the week, my anticipation was high. I was rewarded within the first 2 minutes in the woods. After a slow start to the season, the morels are finally sprouting, and in abundance. Now is the time! In a week, the season will be close to ending.
As with most plants, water is key to survival, and so it is with fungi. The plant is actually something that one doesn’t usually see, or know what it is. The plant, or mycelium, can grow underground or in wood, and can cover an acre or more. When the mycelium fruits, you get a mushroom, much like an apple tree bears fruits as apples. Under wet conditions, the root-like mycelium expands and grows. The photo above shows the tread like mycelium of a type of fungus I saw this past week.
So we have all heard that too much of a good thing can be bad, and so it is with rain. The moisture helps mushrooms to sprout, but heavy rain can cause the sprouted mushrooms to start to rot in as little as a day. So what I really wanted was two days of heavy rain to force the morels to sprout and then no rain and cool temperatures; so the mushroom would stay at peak quality. Yes, I know, things just don’t usually work out that way. See, I told you being a forager can try your patience. So many times I find the remnants of a mushroom that was prime a few days ago, but now is inedible. Just a shame! But occasionally my timing is just right, and my efforts produce quality results.
This morel (image below) I spotted from 50 yards away. Unusual, but yes, they can and do grow this large under optimal conditions.
I found this morel along with half a dozen more at the roots of a giant Tulip Poplar tree in 2014.