Outdoors with Ford Birds---By John Andreoni
Over the years, I’ve learned a number of things about hunting mushrooms. First, hunting mushrooms is easy; it’s the finding part that’s hard. What’s the best time to hunt them? The experts say you should be in the woods right before the next guy starts. Finally, never ask mushroom hunters to share the location of their favorite spots. It just isn’t going to happen. Taking this information to heart, a person can easily see that gathering wild, edible mushrooms on a consistent basis is a challenge. Nature has to cooperate, and the hunter has to spend a lot of time searching. I didn’t even mention that a trained eye would be a big help.
According to the books, there are 2000 or more kinds of wild mushrooms in Ohio. Some are edible, some are poisonous, but no one knows for sure what category the majority of them fall under. These are the mushrooms that aren’t considered a food source because of their size, flavor, or texture. I’m not sure what brave souls did the taste testing to determine flavor, but they must have been pretty hungry to take the chance. Regardless, to simplify matters, most mushroom hunters in this area are searching for morels. They’re easy to identify, have a pleasant, meaty texture, and are considered a delicacy by many, and like many delicacies, there is usually an acquired taste. Once that taste is developed, satisfying it can almost become an obsession. I guess that’s why mushroom hunters are so secretive. They know that morels only show up for a limited time and chances are there won’t be an overabundance to store for a later date. Because of their natural scarcity, buying them from commercial sources is prohibitive, unless you can afford $30 dollars or more per pound.
There are many factors that need to fall into place to have a good mushroom year. Temperature, moisture, soil type, proper nutrients, and more play an important role. When conditions are just right, morels will fruit and become visible. When that time comes, the mushroom hunter wants to be on site ready to harvest. Standard rules call for searching around dead or dying trees. Ash, elm, and apple are commonly mentioned. Later in the season, the bigger yellow morels can be found around pin oak trees. The soil should feel spongey when you walk on it, and sloping ground is an excellent place to look. In flat areas found in northwestern Ohio, these slopes can be subtle and are sometimes difficult to pick up. The south side of slopes are generally warmer because they get more sunlight. This is important early in the season.
Read more: Mushroom Hunting is Easy