On Seeing Morels

In late winter, we search intently for any sign that spring is coming. We peer intently into the woods, searching for a slight swelling of a bud—anything at all. Then, when it actually does arrive, it’s everywhere at the same time. What had been a slight change in birdsong becomes a predawn cacophony, with every bird on the planet singing his fool head off. What was an oh-so-subtle greening becomes an explosion of flowering trees and wildflowers. Then, before one knows what’s happening, we notice that the apple trees are in bloom.
The scent in the orchards is intoxicating, but knowing that when the apple trees bloom the morels are about to appear is makes us delerious. We grab our mushroom bag, pocket-knife and camera and bolt in to the woods.
Of course, finding the first morel won’t be easy, so we look for other signs that the season is right. From long experience we know that columbines bloom in the kind of places that morels like, and do so at the same time as the mushrooms poke their heads through the forest leaf-litter. We are relieved and encouraged when we see the flowers nodding in the dappled sunlight.
It doesn’t seem reasonable that something as empty-headed as a morel could not only recognize potential predators, but organize strategies for out-witting them—but it’s easy to imagine that they do just that.
It sometimes seems like these fungi have the ability to disguise themselves—as if guided by some pre-vegetal intelligence. Their color and texture certainly aid in their deception—but their tendency to emerge from beneath the edge of a rock, or in the shadow of a decayed stick, or at the base of some thorny shrub, suggests the sort of protective strategies that can only arise from self-awareness. Logic compels us to believe that this is not the case, but the search for morels—especially the unproductive search for morels—can lead a mushroom hunter to some unusual suppositions. Occasionally, morels can be found in the open—foolishly sticking their heads into the spring sunshine—but far more often they are hiding—as if they know that there is an omelet in their future.
We’ve always known how important it is to go back over the same area where we’ve just looked for morels. Sometimes the slant of the light, or angle of view, will reveal the mushrooms’ formerly unnoticed hiding places. But another odd phenomenon is less obvious—and it has more to do with the hunter than the hunted.
One can only look intensely at a patch of ground for a minute or so before the mind begins to wander. The eyes seem to lose focus—and, just then, a morel appears. It’s usually in plain sight, but just at the edge of the area we’ve just been scanning intently. It’s almost as if the unconscious mind continues the hunt—more effectively—while the conscious mind drifts.

Gary Allen
Author and/or Editor: The Resource Guide for Food Writers (Routledge,1999), The Herbalist in the Kitchen (University of Illinois Press, 2007), The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food and Drink Industries (Greenwood Press, 2007), Human Cuisine (Booksurge, 2008), Herbs: A Global History (Reaktion Books, April 2012), Terms of Vegery (Kindle, August 2012), How to Serve Man (Kindle, November 2012)

Important Message from the President

I was so happy to announce the launching of our new website in our Spring newsletter.
I encouraged all of you to contribute in many ways.
Right now, I am appealing to all writers out there or just enthusiastic amateur mycologists-even if you have never written an article before.Now is the time to think about writing one. I hope that you are inspired by the new Spring growth.Thinking about  a current topic like Morels (think about the types, habitats, ecology) or just Spring mushrooms, might inspire an article. You may already know a lot, or you can research a topic that you want to learn more about. This is a way to share. Others want to know more too, I assure you!
If you have a special interest, such as ecology, identification, a certain mushroom, food, mushroom art, cooking, photography, etc., please share it with us. Maybe you have other forms of expressing your interest such as  fungi related poetry or visual art to share.Your contributions will enhance the learning experience for all of us. You do not need to be an expert writer or mycologist, just have an interest and research the topic as needed. I am looking forward to hearing from you and seeing your contributions add to an enriching  experience for others browsing our website.

As our walks begin, please also consider how you might volunteer to help on the walk. There are many tasks that go into having a walk. Can you help pass out sign -up sheets, help ID afterwards. Ask us, we’ll let you know what we may need help with. More on this later…Lisa 5-14-2014

Newsletter from our President 5/12/2014

  • Some notes to pave the way for a great start to our season of walks:
  • First, I would like to say “Congratulations” to the winner of our first morel contest, Henning Grentz! Henning sent beautiful photos of morels, found in Rosendale, next to today’s newspaper (authenticating the date found). Henning reports that he found a couple of black morels this past Thursday, May 9 in the Rosendale area.
  • The club holds “the first morel contest” every year as a way of tracking when morels appear in our area from year to year. There have been other reports of earlier sitings in Orange, Dutchess and in Ulster Counties. Henning told us that his  friend, Jens Verhaeg, showed him black morels  that he had found last Saturday, May 3rd, in the New Paltz area. So, if you find the first morel next year, please be sure to send us a picture (one that shows a verifiable date (according to the contest rules that are sent) so that we can keep track.
  • The club postponed its usual Mother’s Day walk morel walk this past weekend because none were found in our regular walk location near Poughkeepsie. Jill, our walks coordinator, has been working hard, as always, to schedule morel walks where people attending will actually be able to see and identify morels. Thank you Robert for scouting! It looks like our first morel walks will be this coming weekend. Stay, tuned to our website and your e-mail (members only) for the details.
  • Now that we are outside, hiking, gathering morels, other wild edibles, or just enjoying Spring hikes and mother nature, please be careful!! Deer ticks carrying Lyme disease are rampant in our area. It is not worth getting a debilitating disease for a taste of wild edibles or just to walk outdoors. There are many things you can do to prevent getting Lyme disease- a disease that causes neurological and muscular abnormalities. This and other websites have many links on prevention, diagnosis and treatment. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/lymedisease.html#cat57
  • Clothing, bug repellants, showering and inspecting for ticks are basic preventative measures. Wear light colored, long pants and shirts, tucked into socks so that you can more easily see ticks. A hat can prevent a tick from landing on your scalp from branches.
  • Most sporting stores have net pants and tops that also guard against mosquitos. There are now clothing lines with built in repellants. Bug spray with Deet is the recommended type of insect repellant to apply. You may find information about alternative -less toxic ones on the internet (although efficacy and strength may be based on anecdotal, not empirical, evidence).
  • Please also remember to wear appropriate footwear for the terrain to prevent injuries.
  •  Now that you are protected  ; ) , please remember to be gentle with and to PROTECT MOTHER NATURE. Remember that the plants and fungus we pick are not there just for us. Every living thing has its niche (or role) in the ecosystem. Do not over-pick any wild edibles and be careful about how you harvest them. Do not pick parts of the plants/fungi that you are not using. They all support a larger ecosystem. If you are using leaves, do not pull up roots. If there is a stand of greens only take a small portion (I have seen different rules of thumb from 5 to 30 percent).
  • The ecosystems that bring us wild edibles are fragile ones. As   demands for building decrease our wooded land and fields, smaller areas of wild growth are under more pressure just to survive and reproduce. While the mushroom is the fruit of the fungus, and picking it has not been clearly shown to affect the organism, we do know that the latter mentioned loss of habitat places pressure on the future of the fungus.
  • Last, but not least, remember to share with others. We have walks to educate each other. As we gain knowledge and expertise we share it with others who want to learn about fungi and safe identification. Remember Do Not INGEST ANY FUNGI that has not been positively identified. If you find positively identified edibles, keep in mind that sharing is not only nice, it is important. It helps others have a positive learning experience.
  • Hopefully you will never need this number, but If you ever suspect having mushroom  poisoning call the Poison Control Center hotline at 1-800-222-1222 for all poison emergencies.
  • Please respect the areas that we walk. Remember that we use the area to teach. If you are familiar with a walk area, we ask that you leave the area untouched. Do not pick there ahead of a group outing; leave the opportunity for others to see and learn about the fungi there.
  • Wishing Everybody Many Happy Moments Exploring Outside,  : ) Lisa

Entry in First Morel Contest

From: H. Grentz
Sent: 05/11/14 06:16 PM
Subject: Morel Contest 1 of 2
Hello 1st Morel Judges,I found a couple of black morels last Thursday, May 9 in the Rosendale area and sent Kelly a crappy, low-tech cell phone pic of them on Friday (the file ending in 3647.jpg). I went back today and checked in on them (other 3 pics.)
(Also on Friday, my friend Jens Verhaeg showed me about a dozen black morels in the New Paltz area that he had found the previous Saturday, May 3rd.)On the way to my spot today, I found a big old bunch of mostly blondes and just a few blacks …I’ll send pics in another email.All the best,
Henning Grentz

From: H. Grentz
Sent: Sunday, May 11, 2014 6:23 PM
Subject: Morel Contest 2 of 2

Here are the blondes that I found today… i feel very blessed by this abundanceHope to see you all soon.

P1050786 P1050787 P1050792 P1050800

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