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MUSHROOM MANIA
By Robert Loewendick

††When will spring arrive?

† Iím looking out my window to see another snowstorm. Living in Ohio gives me the variety of the four seasons to fulfill my love of the weather. But this winter has worn out itís welcome. If I hear the local weatherman predict more snow, Iím sending a snowball his direction. This winter has set new records in snowfall amounts and temperatures. Hopefully, this springís weather will present some new records as well. Iím not speaking in terms of inches of rain, sorry boat builders, but Iím referring to mushrooms.

† The Morel mushroom is on the "most wanted" list of many outdoor enthusiasts in the spring. The hunt for the Morel is as exciting as it is delicious and easy to prepare. Even a bad cook, like myself who burns water, can make a pleasing dish. Some folks, or "shroomers," have a knack to finding the tasty treasures. This usually leads to some friendly competition among shroomers.

Morel Season

† Spring is a busy time of the year for most of us, but the Morel mushroom has a short growing season so donít get too busy. My wife usually has a spring edition of the "honey-do-list" for me to complete. "Bad timing," I tell her, as the kids and I slip out the back door with our shroom bags.

† In east central Ohio, the Morelís normal growing season is early April to mid May. Further south it will be one to two weeks earlier, to the north a little later. A damp habitat is needed for the Morelís growth. Too much rain or dry weather is not what the mushroom needs. Just like me, the Morel requires a somewhat normal weather pattern. Temperature plays an important role in the growth of the mushroom as well. Morel mushrooms thrive when daytime temps are in the 60ís and 70ís and nighttime temps are not lower than the 40.

Location, Location, Location

† The Morel mostly grows in damp areas but itís not rare to find it in other places. Iíve found them growing along side my driveway. My sister has found them growing in a cattle pasture. One of the largest harvests here amongst our family of shroomers was gathered from the edge of a railroad bed. Of course my brother now thinks he is "king shroomer" after hitting that motherlode.

† Veteran shroomers have their favorite spots that they visit like a shrine (a shroomer shrine? AnywayÖ). Underneath dying Elm trees are a great place to search. Others, such as Ash and apple trees, offer good opportunities for a harvest also. The Morel will grow in various types of vegetation. Along streambeds with plenty of lush, green vegetation is my favorite mushroom hangout. There I usually find the right ingredients for a mushroom habitat. Areas with moist soil and dying Elm trees have treated me with the best yields. Other places I search frequently are pine forests. My family and I own a Christmas tree farm, which has provided some successful mushroom hunts.

† Watch Your Step. "See it?" my daughter, says. "Where?" I say. "Right there next to your foot." She says. OK, so Iím not the best shroomer in the family, this I will admit. Though mushroom hunting is not exactly rocket science, there are a few tricks to increase your chances for a successful hunt. Since they blend in so well with their surroundings, you must walk at a slow pace. I often wonder how many mushrooms I have walked past because I was pressed for time. My children and I never walk out of the yard without our hiking sticks when going shrooming. These sticks move the ground cover from side to side to reveal the shy shroom (and to scare the snakes away also). The sticks will also hold the briars up high enough to crawl under to retrieve the Morels playing hard to get.

† Last but not least make sure you have picked the correct mushroom, not a poisonous one, before cooking and eating it. If you know an experienced mushroom hunter, ask them to take you along. Even if they blindfold you on the trip to their secret spot, Iím sure they will be happy to share their shrooming skills with you. If you donít have a mushroom mentor, you should scan through a mushroom identification book to make sure you have harvested the Morel mushroom. Other great sources of information on harvesting, preserving and cooking the Morel are your states Department of Natural Resources and your local library.

† Spring will be here before we know it. The snow will melt and the rains will come. A different type of weather will begin to entertain me and possibly another weather record will be set. So, if I have to spend a spring day indoors, hopefully it will be with a skillet filled with the tasty morsels of Morels and not with a paint pail and brush.

Popular Morel Recipe

† A simple but delicious recipe. Cut the mushrooms into quarters and wash. Soak them with saltwater for at least one hour to kill any insects. Keep refrigerated. Pre-heat skillet and five tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Crack open a few eggs into a bowl. Dip processed mushrooms into the egg batter then roll them in flour and place in the skillet. Fry for about three minutes on each side. Serve. Great individually or on toast.


About The Author:
Robert lives in Hopewell, Ohio with his wife Linda and children Danielle and Robbie. He is an avid wildlife observer and enjoys outdoor writing as well. You can reach him by e-mail at rrloewendick@yahoo.com

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