Newsletter from the new MHMA president, John Michelotti

Thank you for your support in voting me in as president of MHMA.
Many thanks to all those that have been a great support to our organization. Especially our Officers:
Past President – Lisa Resnick
VP – Barbara Plume
Secretary – Kelly Sinclair
Treasurer – Cynthia Fisher
Membership Secretary – Carol McDonald
Walks Coordinator – Jill Weiss
When my position started on April 1st, I instantly felt more powerful. I felt charged with the responsibility to make the world a better place through my efforts with MHMA. You can feel powerful too! If you are interested in volunteering your time or becoming a chairperson, please email me directly. I am happy to answer any questions and help you along the way. Our members’ combined efforts are what makes this club what it is.
Over the next year it is my hope to bring in some great mycologists to talk and present on a variety of mushroom topics including microscopy and more on cultivation from a mushroom farmer and teacher in Amherst. I plan to inform our members of the equipment and services they have available in hopes that members will be inspired to work on a mushroom project given the tools we can provide. I would like to recruit members to help with the planning the 2017 NEMF (North East Mycological Foray – a weekend long mushroom gathering with over 250 people and high ranking mycologists). And, of course, I look forward to getting our members in the woods and inspiring others to do the same through sharing a well-rounded education of fungi.
For those of you who are not familiar with me, what follows is more than enough information to give you a background on who I am. If anyone sent me an email this long, I probably wouldn’t even read it so if you stop here, I don’t blame you. Have a great day!
Here’s a Bio covering my mycological background:

John Michelotti resides in Big Indian, NY on a family farm where he cultivates (indoor and outdoor) mushrooms for their healthful components which he uses to create Health Extractions which he sells online, in stores and at farmers markets. He is the owner of Catskill Fungi whose mission is to empower people through Fungi via Outdoor Guided Mushroom Classes, Cultivation courses, Educational Talks, Private consultations, Mushroom Art, and Mushroom Health Extractions. John is the President of the Mid-Hudson Mycological Association (MHMA), and a member of Connecticut Westchester Mycological Association (COMA), Pioneer Valley Mycological Association, and North American Mycological Association (NAMA) as well as Amazon Mycorenewal Project researching the utilization of Fungi to remediate oil spills in the Amazon Rainforest. He is a member of the Mushroom Advisory Panel for Certified Naturally Grown who are developing standards for best practices in ecological mushroom production.
That being said, I still consider myself new to mushrooms. I joined COMA in 2010 and it was because of the teachings and warm welcoming of people like Gary Lincoff and Diana Smith that I found my first forest family. I rearranged my schedule around mushroom walks and talks and it quickly became my favorite thing to do. I spent my spare time (and some time at work) reading books from Paul Stamets, Gary Lincoff, Eugenia Bone, etc, cultivating my first mushrooms, and visiting mushroom farms. When an opportunity came to go to Ecuador in 2012 to study mycoremediation, I leveraged an educational award from an AmeriCorps program I earned in 2007 and took the summer off from being a boat captain. This propelled me into the next level of working with mushrooms. At that point I was leading walks, giving talks/presentations on a variety of subjects, as well as hosting inoculation workshops in a variety of places. I moved up to a family farm in Big Indian NY in 2014 and founded Catskill Fungi. My mission is to inspire people through mushrooms while improving my community and the environment. The mushroom walks I host with Catskill Fungi are more of a Fungi-101 Course. They cover basic morphology, ecological roles of fungi, what to bring when you’re going on a mushroom walk, historic uses of fungi, medicinal uses of fungi, technological advancements utilizing fungi, and current scientific research. Oh, and what’s edible and poisonous. I do my best to take the focus away from the “Can I eat it?” questions and instead inspire the “WOW” factor of the fascinating world of Fungi. At the end of the course people are familiar with what a field guide is and how to use one, how to triple-check the mushrooms they want to eat, as well as the next steps to getting involved in mushrooms including local mycological clubs where they can go on walks and attend classes. I hope to expand membership of MHMA and other mycological organizations through my work with Catskill Fungi.
Catskill Fungi Mushroom walks are $10 for any member of a mycological organization if you sign up with me ahead of time.
Catskill Fungi walks are different from MHMA walks. As a member of MHMA the mushroom walks are paid for by your annual membership fee. Catskill Fungi walks are paid per walk and any member of a mycological organization gets a discount. To find out when Catskill Fungi will be hosting walks please go to the website CatskillFungi.com.

Jill is doing a great job putting together the MHMA walk list and you will receive an email about this in the coming weeks.

If anyone has any questions or would like to talk more about anything above, please contact me directly; John@catskillFungi.com

I hope to see many smiling faces in the woods this coming season.
May the spores be with you.
Fungally yours,
John

Archived Newsletter from our President 12/8/2014

Dear Club members, Is it too soon..can I say it? Oh well, (although it used to be later) I think it’s now the start…”Happy Holidays”!

Starting the fall season last month, our  club had a wonderful annual pot luck and meeting. Befitting of the season, this yearly event has moved from December to November during the past few years, a time of thanks for our harvests and all we have.  The meal was illuminated  by Carol MacDonald’s decorations and Jill Weiss’s gourmet mycophagy creations – both were exquisite. Our meeting was  greatly enhanced by the wonderful table that our Vice President, Barbara Plume, put together. The table, with a display of fungi that Barbara identified for us, and Barbara’s on-going work to educate, exemplify our club’s  mission to share our knowledge of mycology. Awards for finding the first of a species were given at our meeting. Congratulations to Sandra Schelhorn who was recognized for finding the first Chanterelles of the season. Many other hands, too many to mention here, helped to bring this event together, from set-up to door prize donations, and of course the comradely of a friendly, like-minded group of people. It was an amazing event. As Henry Halama put it, the dinner was a “100 course gourmet meal”. I heard one person say of the event, “It was the best ever”. Thank you all for your ideas and input at the meeting as well .

For those of you who were not present, or aware of previous letters,  I have been emphasizing the need for people to contribute to the club in whatever way they can; this can be done by taking on an existing club post or office, to giving a workshop, to leading or hosting a walk or in smaller ways of assisting where help is needed. Just ask club officers how they can use help. In addition to decorating our tables, to encourage new people to try leading a walk, Carol generously put together packets to simplify doing this . The packet contains needed forms for leading the walk such as sign-in sheets​.​

Normally we have had one president’s award, given to someone who’s contributions to the club have been outstanding.  I did something different this year. The president’s award was given to two individual’s. Both stepped up to help and exemplified the spirit of making on-going contributions, facilitating on-going club activities. The award was given to Ted Shemella who volunteered to be web master with our new website​; an on-going task. The other award recipient was Robert Senk. During the year, I repeatedly heard Robert’s name mentioned – always in some capacity of contributing to help facilitate our walks. Thank you both again.

Thank you, Connie Lettow, new to our club, who stepped up at the meeting offering to help wherever help is needed. Connie will be our new Volunteer Coordinator. She will be working on collecting info on how you can help and coordinating the efforts.

With regard to filling a post, please know that none of the club posts are permanent positions. According to our by-laws, most were not intended to be filled by one person for more than two years. We need volunteers to help and take on each of these positions. The position of walks coordinator remains open. Secretary and treasurer have been open although the current officers have selflessly continued to fill in until a replacement is found. I also welcome anybody to consider being President, as does Barbara, for Vice President. While I accepted the office of president, sharing the sense of responsibility to give back to the club, and remain dedicated to leading the club, I also recognize that the club would benefit having someone who has more time to devote to it.  I am now working long hours, which limits how much time and how quickly I can attend to club business.

Now is a time that everybody can continue to contribute and help the club to best serve all of us. If you have not responded to letting us know what educational activities you are interested in learning more about, please do so right away. I have received input from a handful of people. We are putting our yearly talks and walks agenda together now-to start in the next few months, and need your input to successfully plan talks and activities that you would like to see. We can’t do this without your input.

So far, from your feedback, there are several requests for a tree identification workshop (before the leaves pop out) and I am working on this. We have several other great ideas that I will work to integrate in programs. Other workshops will be based upon the greatest interest expressed by club members and finding facilitators for those programs.

In summation of the above:

1- We had a great dinner and are looking forward to more interesting meetings.
2- Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer, consider being a club officer or walk’s coordinator, and thank you to all who do volunteer!
3- Send your suggestions for workshops and lectures immediately-to help us find workshops based upon popular interest.
4- Let us know if you can lead or facilitate a workshop/event
4- See the wonderful Fall Report that Bill sent at t​he time of our meeting  below.  I am sorry that I could not get this out sooner. However, it remains important information about fungi, and observations about seasonal trends, that you can continue to reflect upon and  call upon in the future.  Thanks, Bill

Thanks, Lisa

Archived: President’s Newsletter – from Lisa Resnick

We had a wonderful annual dinner meeting. Thank you to all who helped and participated.
 
At the meeting Jill volunteered to resume the position of walks leader and will call upon you to volunteer to host or lead walks. We plan to have our 2016 calendar out at the beginning of the year.
Thank you to our wonderful webmaster, Ted Shemella who was not at the meeting for me to thank personally. Our website has a lot of “hits” and visibility. We can keep this up by maintaining an interesting website. Remember to send Ted your  mycology related articles/writing, photos. As always, I encourage you to write about any MHMA event that you attend. 
 
Winter lectures:Winter is a wonderful time to focus on academics as well as experiential education. MHMA has a rich history of enriching our knowledge of fungi through combined winter meetings and lectures. Last year, in response to the interests stated by members,  the club provided the following educational events:
A  tree ID walk at Margaret-Norrie Park, as well as the following lectures:
Bill Bakaitis on the role of fungi in the ecosystem, 
Lisa Resnick and Alice Barner: macroscopic and Microscopic identification of fungi,   
Gary Lincoff. Mushrooms and Ecosystems-Connecting the Dots
Gerry McDonald- log inoculation
 
MARK YOUR CALENDARS.Our lecture/meetings this year are:
Tues 1-3-16 Bill Bakaitis, Boletes of the Northeast
Mid winter meeting/lecture TBA
Tues 3-1-16 John Michelotti, The Evolution of Mushroom Cultivation in the Northeast
MHMA Logo Contest: Attention artists-Please submit your designs to be used for  a logo for our club. The design may be used on cards, banners etc.
Volunteers needed:
1-The club is in need of an audio-visual manager- who can set up and run equipment at events as needed. Please let us know if you could fulfill this role.
2-Each of our club officers have continued to volunteer past the term of their duties and would appreciate replacements. Please think about assuming the responsibilities for membership chair, secretary, vice president and president and contact us to let us know if are interested in helping out in any of these positions.  
I continue to encourage our members to let us know about and share their expertise as well as hosting and leading  walks . Thank you to John Michelotti who will share his expertise on 3-1-16. John also hosted a walk and  assisted at the log inoculation workshop given by Gerry MacDonald in the Spring. Thank you Gerry and Carol for hosting this. Here is an attachment with Gerry’s article about the workshop. It may also be viewed on our website with workshop photos.
We would like to see more education of our youth. I encourage members to think about setting up family-oriented workshops geared toward young people (and their families)-our future. We will work on reserving the space. We have also provided education at fairs and other sites. Let us know about your events  or opportunities to educate.
 
Thank you all for your support and participation in club activities promoting education about mycology for all, Lisa

 

Post from David Horvitz

Question: Hi,

I’m forwarding this to various people (some friends and contact emails from some Myco website) to see if anyone has any thoughts.

This was written yesterday, It’s now been about 18 hours or so, and I’m not sick!

This was in the Catskills, the mountain range a few hours north of New York City.

Thanks,

David

Hi,

I am trying to make sense of this.

This morning in the catskills I found what I thought was a boletus edulis. From my research I know that there aren’t that many dangerous boletes, so I wasn’t worried if it was a closely related species. I know that the ones that are poisonous are red or stain blue, and there is the inedible bitter bolete.

I found a big one, slightly eaten by some slugs, and a small baby one.

I’ve attached a photo, though it’s not that good. I didn’t bother taking a better photo b/c I thought I had ID’d it.

I cooked it up with thyme, bacon fat, garlic, and then scrambled two eggs on top of it. I cooked it about ten minutes.

About 20 minutes after I ate it I felt a chemical feeling in my mouth, and I felt spaced out, like I was about to start tripping on a psychedelic. As I was typing an email my fingers began to feel light and a feeling of disassociation arose. No one else felt this. I never felt sick. The feeling faded away, but I still have this very very slight spaced out feeling. It’s been about 6 hours since I ate it.

If it was a toxic boletus, I assume I should have gotten sick already…

I also just discovered this lookalike online: Boletus huronensis. Which some say is edible, and some say will make you sick… It says it “slowly” stains blue. The mushroom we ate didn’t stain blue, but I don’t know if “slowly” means we should have waited some time… Though there were some missing pieces in the stalk and cap when I found it which I assume should have turned blue…. Though, some things I’ve read online say that b. huronensis doesn’t always stain blue.

I should have probably saved a piece of this mushroom, or took better photos, but I felt pretty safe about it.

Three people ate the mushroom. I was the only one who felt slightly weird right after. Another person who ate it said he felt strangely great, but he wasn’t sure if it was a kind of high, or if he was just feeling good up in the Catskills. My wife, who also ate some, said she didn’t feel anything. However, later that evening she said she felt a little weird, but thinks it was psychologically provoked when we got a little paranoid reading about the b. huronensis poisonings… This morning she said when she went to sleep she was in an “alert state and the room was animated.” We also stayed up to 1am last night without feeling tired, though the previous nights we were going to sleep around 11pm.

Other things that maybe should be considered:

We were consuming a chaga brew the past few days, could this have reacted with something in the mushroom?
We found this 20 feet up a small hill on the side of a road, but it was a road in the middle of the Catskills in the middle of nowhere, a very very rarely traveled on road…
Weed killer? Could this explain the chemically high feeling without the feeling of getting sick.
I also remember when I ate it it tasted really good. But I didn’t think it had that strong porcini taste that I know. (But it did become a medium for bacon fat…)
Any thoughts?

Thanks,

– David

Wine Making Workshop

Cynthia,

Thank you so much for a magnificent wine making workshop on June 29th. It was obviously enjoyed and appreciated by all.

You helped to simplify a multi-step art and process to teach us. It was not apparent, but obvious in retrospect, how much time and planning you did to teach us so much.  This included preparing- such as  bringing us wine at different stages to observe.  It also took a lot of work and planning to have all of the equipment there that we needed to learn wine making and bottling methods. I, for one, was glad to have the opportunity to learn about a craft that I always wanted to try- but like many things, never got through that yard sale book that I picked up about wine making.  Having someone show you things makes it that much easier to learn. That fits right in with how our club works- teaching people through hands on learning opportunities from people with more experience.

Thanks to Jill and Carol too for their assistance in the class (Carol) and for putting the time in to plan for our culinary accompaniments to the class.

Thanks again,
Lisa 

First Chanterelle Contest

I am pleased to announce that Sandy Schelhorn is the winner of our First Chanterelle Contest. The chanterelles are from Windham, NY on 6-23-14.

Thanks, Sandy! Lisa

OK myco enthusiasts, The clock is running and it’s on – our annual contest for the first Chanterelle sighting by a club member!  

Get out your cameras and hit the trails. 

………Not only is this contest fun, but you are helping science. Our contest helps us to keep track of trends with climate changes. Climate changes have been affecting where we find some species and this will give us a record of any changes as to when morels are appearing.
 
Here are the rules:OFFICIAL RULES:I).  Contestant Must Be An MHMA Member In Good Standing.

II).  Must take and submit 3 photos of mushroom still standing…
1). zoom-in shot of mushroom to confirm species & show it has not been not cut
2). zoom-out to show mushroom and time & date on cell phone
3). zoom out to show mushroom and “wild” area around mushroom
Must be a raw photo not edited, “touched-up”, or cropped in any way…

III).  Must be a non-cultivated mushroom, growing in the wild found in Ulster, Dutchess, Greene, Columbia, Albany or Orange Counties.

IV).  “Verbal (or Digital) Entry” must be submitted to club president within 24 hours of find…  Pictures must be submitted to club president within
48 hours… V).  Trophy Prize winner will be determined and announced as quickly as possible by the Club’s Standing President.

VI).  The trophy shall be kept in the possession of the current champion but shall remain the property of MHMA.  Each year, the previous year’s winner or designee shall present the trophy to the new winner at the Winter Meal.

VII).  3 Trophies To Be Awarded For “First Found” are:
1). Morel – (Black Morel – (Morchella elata) or Yellow Morel – (Morchella esculenta))
2). Yellow or “Golden” Chanterelle – (Cantharellus cibarius or Cantharellus lateritus)
3). Hen Of The Woods – (Grifola frondosa)
4). Most Exciting Find – (Any species found that because of it’s rarity, because it is a perfect or really attractive specimen, or because of the sheer volume of an choice edible find makes it the most exciting find of the year…)  The winner of this award will be determined by a vote of the club membership prior to our annual dinner.

VIII).  As The Judge, The MHMA President is Not Eligible To Win Any Of The “First” Trophies!

Please send your pictures to

aristar94@yahoo.com and we will announce the winner.

                                 GOOD LUCK!!!
..and then  we can look forward to our first Hen contest ! : ) and a whole season of “mushroom fever”.

Telluride Mushroom Festival

Telluride Mushroom Festival
Telluride, CO
August 16-19, 2014
Pre-conference- August 15
Greetings!  We are delighted to announce that the 33rd annual Telluride Mushroom Festival, sponsored by the Telluride Institute, will be held from Saturday August 16 through Tuesday August 19.  Pre-festival workshops and an early-bird walk will also be held on August 15.
Set in the beautiful San Juan Mountains, the Telluride Mushroom Festival offers something for everyone, from guided forays in the San Juan mountains, to presentations on mushroom cultivation, anthropology, remediation, and significant research.
This year’s festival very consciously looks at the role of mushrooms across a broad spectrum of human life.  Festival activities include everything from the ever-popular (and sometimes outrageous) mushroom costume parade, to sessions for the mushroom gourmet, to discussions about how recent scientific research has led to exciting new developments in the fields of behavioral pharmacology, oncology, and other areas of human health and medicine.
This year also sees the inception of the Telluride Institute Voucher Program science tent, overseen by internationally renowned mycologist John Holliday, and distinguished author of The Audubon Guide to Mushrooms, Gary Lincoff.   Funded by Aloha Medicinals, the goal of this program is to educate festival participants in the identification and discovery of mushrooms, some of which might be new to science.  Festival participants will be invited to bring fungi samples to the Voucher Program science tent. The specimens will be packaged and sent off for DNA analysis as part of an on-going project to identify fungi of the Telluride area.  Who knows which lucky foray member will be responsible for finding a previously undescribed species!
 The broad array of festival topics is also highlighted through the many workshops and guest lectures.  The keynote speaker, author Langdon Cook, is a writer, instructor, and lecturer on wild foods and how to find them.  His latest book, The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America, won the 2014 Pacific Northwest Book Award.  This remarkable book brings out the mycophile in all of us by showing how mushroom foraging can revitalize our relationship with the natural world.
Mycologists Tradd Cotter and Ron Spinosa will lead workshops on the cutting edge subject of mycoremediation — the use of fungi to clean up a polluted environment.    They will also show how to use toilet paper and kitty litter to grow mushrooms at home, and discuss how growing one’s own mushrooms can improve nutrition and reduce poverty in the U.S.
 On new topics in medicine, Robert Rogers, a leading expert on medicinal fungi, will discuss how mushrooms can improve your health. Biotechology researcher, Dr. Ayman Daba, will discuss the use of mushrooms to reverse cancerous tumors by boosting the host’s immune system. And, Maggie Klinedinst, a senior program coordinator in Behavioral Pharmacology at Johns Hopkins University, will discuss research on the use of mushrooms in developing medications for the treatment of mental disorders.
On the lighter, and more colorful, side of things mycologist and fiber artist Alissa Allen will offer a workshop on the process of extracting brilliantly colored dyes from mushroom specimens and using those dyes to color wool and silk. (Each workshop will be limited to 20 participants, so book early!)  Legendary mushroom photographer, Taylor Lockwood, will screen his most recent film and offer tips for all on how to improve your own mushroom photography. And, Lawrence Millman will give a presentation on ethnomycology, in which he talks about (among other things) how certain Native peoples use fungi to get rid of evil spirits.
 The connoisseur in all of us will be delighted as the Wilkinson Public Library hosts a Mushroom Cook-Off street party on Saturday, August 16.  Chefs from around the country will compete for the “People’s Choice Award,” the “Judges’ Choice Award,” and the much-coveted “Mushroom Cap” by creating delectable and inventive wild mushroom dishes.   Everyone gets to watch the chefs in action, sample their dishes, and vote for their favorites!   The Cook-Off will also feature mushroom-infused beer, live music, vendors, and a grand tasting.
 As always, the very popular Telluride Mushroom Festival Parade will be a lively celebration of all things fungal.  Led by poet laureate and colorful 60s luminary Art Goodtimes, mushroom enthusiasts will parade down Main Street dressed in extravagant mushroom-themed costumes.  Needless to say, there will be a contest for the best (craziest?) mushroom costume.
We welcome you to join us for this wonderful, fun, and surprisingly serious look at the world of fungi.  As Matt Kostalek, vice president of Aloha Medicinals has noted, where else can you see “hundreds of festival participants dressed as mushrooms in the epic annual costume parade,” while also having the opportunity “to learn about and participate in serious science taking place beneath a tent nearby.”
 Join us to explore the Kingdom of Fungi in all its surprising manifestations!
 This year’s Mushroom Festival is expected to sell out. Please reserve your festival pass soon.
    ·         Children under age 12 are FREE, and a 15% discount on lodging is available through Telluride Alpine Lodging.
    ·         Full event passes are available at telluridemushroomfest.org or by mail at MUSHROOM 2014 c/o Telluride Institute, P.O. Box 1770, Telluride CO, 81435.
    ·         For festival information, please visit us on the web, or email
 media@telluridemushroomfest.org with questions.

####

 What is Mushroom Festival?
The 33rd Annual Mushroom Festival is the world’s largest mushroom conference welcoming newbies and professional mycologists. The 4-day event features lectures,
“The Telluride Mushroom Festival is the only event of its kind in North America,” says author-mycologist Lawrence Millman, a presenter at this year’s Festival.   “It provides the Big Picture for mushrooms — what they’re doing in nature, and how humans can use them beneficially.”
 ####
 Photos: Last Year’s Parade
Keynote Speakers: Taylor Lockwood, John Holliday, Langdon Cook

Wild Mushrooms in a Zurich Market

Friday mornings in Zurich are hopping with locals buying fresh vegetables, flowers, meats and fish.  Two of the vendors had a variety of foraged mushrooms.  I’m asking for your help in identifying them as best you can (click on the picture to see a larger image).  Thanks for your help!

1.  DSCF1377

 

2.  DSCF1378

 

3.  DSCF1379

 

4.  DSCF1380

 

5.  DSCF1381

Please post your identifications as comments below…

Accidental Locavore Gathering – Morel Edition

by Anne Maxfield on June 2, 2014

Read Anne’s Accidental Locavore blog

Accidental Locavore Ready to ForageForaging for mushrooms is something the Accidental Locavore has wanted to do for years. Ever since a friend of mine gifted me with a big bag of chanterelles he found behind our golf course, I’ve wanted to go in search of mushrooms. However, unlike some kitchen experiments that might make you sick if screwed up, gathering the wrong mushrooms can kill you – definitely a deterrent! So I was happy to discover (and join) the Mid-Hudson Mycological Association.

Accidental Locavore Dryad SaddleThey were promising a morel walk for the past couple of weekends, but the morels weren’t cooperating until last Saturday. The walks are all kept very hush-hush so interlopers won’t go out and pick all the mushrooms. Then, late Friday night, an email giving the time and secret meeting place went out to the members. About fifteen foragers met in a parking lot and once we were briefed, we took off for the woods. Because it had rained (a lot) the night before, our first challenge was fording a couple of small streams. Once up in the woods, it wasn’t long before someone found the first fungi, a couple of Dryad Saddles.

Accidental Locavore MorelFurther into the woods, our first sighting of morels! There were three decent-sized ones, close by a dying elm tree. Once everyone got to admire them, the person who discovered them picked them, and we were on our way. Up a trail past old discarded washing machines and wrecked tires, we hiked on. Suddenly, in the middle of the woods, I had a wardrobe malfunction. My hiking boots, which hadn’t seen the light of day in years, suddenly delamintated. At first it was just the heels flapping around, but before too long, both soles fell off! Rather than risk slipping and falling (note to self, next time, bring a hiking stick), and since my feet were rapidly getting wet, I had to turn back. Reluctantly, I let everyone know, packed my soles in the bag I was going to use for the morels, and hiked back to the car, driving home in bare feet, since boots were ruined and socks were soaked.

Accidental Locavore Trashed BootsIt didn’t help to get the next midnight email, saying how successful the walk had been, with everyone (except me) going home with morels! But I have a better understanding of where to look for them, and a network of people I can send photos to if I need confirmation. I’m looking forward to the next secret meeting and a walk in my own woods to see if there’s anything out there.

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)
Copyright © 2013 The Mid Hudson Mycological Association