"Shrooming" Part I

This time of year the activity around the shop here at Northern Toboggan & Sled is at the low ebb of the year. I like it. After a busy sled season it’s a nice break to have some time for leisurely tasks and the outdoors…often difficult to do when toboggan orders are up.

It will be a little while before folks are thinking about winter time again.

We had some above normal warm days early this spring and that got the Morel Mushrooms going about a week ahead of schedule. I think what happened was there was a few weeks of warm weather, a rain we had one particular night where the temps stayed above 60 degrees, and then the mushrooms starting popping. The trouble was the next day a cold front moved in and temps where dropping fast by noon…T-shirts in the morning and jackets later in the afternoon.

I checked one of our areas a couple days later and found quite a few mushrooms, but they where as small as I’ve ever found on average. Looked like they popped and it got cold right away? It stayed cold for a full week after that and on Saturday, after a couple of warm days Pat and I went down to the woods to see what was happening.

Pat and I have been picking Morel Mushrooms every spring for the last 39 years. At one time it was a big family outing when the kids were home. We have a couple grandkids that are getting pretty savvy at it and others who definitely would if they can be around at mushroom time. It’s a lot of fun and good for the soul.

If you aren’t familiar with these mushrooms you will find a wealth of information from a Google search. They tend to grow in the same area each spring or until the patch runs its course, so it’s unlikely that many dyed-in-the-wool mushroom pickers will give you the coordinates to their favorite patches. The mushrooms can be difficult to find, so finding a good area is definitely kept sacred, unless perhaps its family and with certain conditions.

In the first years we would pinch the mushrooms stem off just above the ground trying to avoid taking up the roots and humus. However often we would disturb the roots…if they are roots? Later we learned that Morel mushrooms don’t reproduce by releasing spores to the air. Apparently they grow from a fine strand, like spider web, that is below the surface of the ground…I’m not sure this is all there is to it, but we have learned to carry a sharp knife and harvest the mushroom by cutting the stem above the ground ant try to not disturb the root or primarily the fine strand that it is growing from. The idea is to preserve the patch hopefully for years to come…

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