Foray and Farm Dinner at Hufendick Farm Market October 13th

We had so much fun last Saturday, we sold out and had a fantastic meal.

Spencer and chicken

At the shop I just finished processing 50 pounds of maitake into mushroom duxelle, the umami is amazing! Slow cooked and finely ground it’ll be the basis for flavors in soups and sauces, in hand made pasta, and so much more over the next six months.

We’ll come up with an awesome mushroom menu full of earthy flavors, and of course feature naturally raised meats from Hufendick Farm, as well as other local ingredients.

Recent rains and cool nights ensure that we’ll have a great hunt, looking for Hen of the Woods, Chicken Mushroom, Lobster Mushrooms, Oysters, and so much more!

This time we’re having an after hours dinner, and guests are strongly encouraged to bring a bottle of wine. Wine and Cheese by TCC in downtown Plainfield will pair wines with the menu, and they’ll be available for purchase with a 15% discount!

1st Annual Hufendick Farm Market Foray and Farm Lunch

Hufendick LogoOn Saturday, September 21st well be meeting at Hufendick Farm Market, 24032 Lockport Street in Plainfield, IL at 10:00. We’ll leave promptly at 10:30 and head to a local woods. Rob Poe and Dave Odd of “Eat the Neighborhood” will lead the foray, identifying edible mushrooms and edible wild plants.

Then we’ll head back to Downtown Plainfield for a short walking tour and identify plants in an urban environment.

Lunch will be served about 1:30 pm, featuring wild foods, and all natural meats from the Hufendick Farm in Norway, IL.

Starter of charcuterie;

Heirloom Tomato Soup;

Spring Green Salad with Fromage de Tete;

Berkshire Osso Bucco on a bed of wild mushroom risotto, with roasted root vegetables;

White Port Wine Braised Wilded Pears with a wild grape compote and bourbon whipped cream

Cost is $65.00 per person, and limited to 15 people (10 sold so far).

Reservations taken via phone at 815-436-8997







Friday July 20th Dave Odd of Eat the Neighborhood presents Foraging and Dinner with Jam Restaurant in Logan Square

Regular readers of this blog know that foraging is not only about mushrooms, but what you can find in your own area, where you are at the moment.

Dave Odd has been a naturalist for 30 years. He’s been selling to fancy restaurants and grocery stores for 10 of those years. He has been running urban foraging tours for seven years and with his urban foraging tours he has been getting quite a name. He guarantees that you will find and identify over 50 edible species of greens, mushrooms, and woody plants and fruit.

Dave Odd has been working with restaurants all year to partner with some of Chicago’s best chefs to present three and four course meals of foraged foods. Each tour is different, and every food found is seasonal and at the peak of freshness.

I sat down with Dave last week to speak to him about the tours.

(Editors note: Dave Odd and Rob spent two days together foraging Chanterlle Mushrooms in Southern Illinois; 400 miles driven, and many, many ravines walked. 100 pounds of mushrooms harvested. All the chaterelles sold within a day of coming back to Chicago)

CMM: So Dave, why are you spending time teaching instead of foraging?

Dave: It’s like this, I love what I do and I love to share it with other people. I’m a performer, I used to do stand-up comedy and also teach improv. I find it fascinating to put forth new knowledge to people and see how far they can run with it. I’ve been doing forays for people for seven years. Some of the folks who went on my early forays still send me pictures to help them ID something. It’s great!

CMM: Aren’t you worried that teaching others into the foraging world will cut into your sales to restaurants and grocery stores? How do you feel about the market getting saturated by new foragers?

Dave: That’s a good question, I think that most people want to harvest enough for a meal or two. Part of my teaching is being able to harvest only what one can use, and only enough that there is no damage to future harvest, that there is no damage to the eco-system. Foraging is hard. It takes time to learn an ecosystem and learn what happens seasonally, after each rainfall. I try to teach people to get to the same piece of land each week whether it is a park or a forest. See the plants sprouting, leafing out, and dying back.

Be a participant in the ecosystem. Not just blindly bandy about.


Spring Ramps from a private estate in Northern Indiana


For example, each year in spring I manage to sell a phenomenal amount of ramps, the spring forest plant that beautifully announces itself with fantastic greenery after the first late spring rains. I sell almost 1,500 pounds. Every fine dining restaurant and most small grocery stores in Chicago have my ramps.

I pay some of Chicago’s finest chefs to come out and dig for a few days. They love it! They get their hands dirty and I get to teach them about where many of the forest foods on their menu come from.

A few years ago I started a “Forest Spring Mix” option for chefs. It is all the edible forest floor treats that appear in early spring. It means something different to a chef who cares about where the food on their menu comes from and can identify it as a species and on a map.

We all know about ramp over-harvesting, it’s prolific, especially on the East Coast. We only harvest from one 40 acre homestead. The owner of which demands that we rid her land of this odorous villain so her mower stops stinking. It’s been seven years, and we’re doing our best to clear her land, but it’s a serious proposition. And it is the only way to responsibly harvest Ramps.


Fresh Northern Illinois Lobster Mushrooms

CMM: OK, but what do you actually do on your “Urban Foray”?

Dave: Well, we take a walk.

We head to the nearest alley and take a walk. Usually I don’t get past the first sidewalk crack or the first parkway without an edible species. Lamb’s Quarter, Poor Man’s Pepper, Dandelions, so many species it’s ridiculous. By the end of the walk folks will have in their hands wild grape leaves, species of wood sorrel, day lily shoots and buds, wild plums, crabappples, or any number of things depending on the season.

And I’ll work with the chef to teach you how to prepare them; It’s really nifty to have a chef I sell wild food to, to sit down and plan a menu based on the freshest wild foods, stuff that may not be ready until next week!


August Maitake Mushroom on a Chicago parkway

CMM: So why am I heading out with you for this walk in the streets of Chicago? Couldn’t I learn this with a book and a good walk?

Dave: Of course, I encourage you to get some good plant ID books, Mushroom ID books, Survival books, and whatever you can get you hands on! I’m here to share years of knowledge. There is no way that what I teach you can cut into my business of wholesaling the same items to restaurants. In fact, I want people to be able to feed themselves from the bounty of wild foods that surround us.

This is about teaching, and teaching people both to be able to make sure they know what they’re doing foraging, but also to make sure that they are confident in how they do so. I don’t expect each person to take fifty or eighty new species into their brain and be experts on each one, but I do expect that someone might be able to use a wild grape leaf from the neighbors fence when the want to make crisp fermented pickles.

If the end result is that I get a few people to walk in the park or forest preserve and do it regularly I’ve won the game. The more people we get out to care about the ecosystem the better.

CMM: Dave, it’s been a pleasure catching up with you but you need to tell me about the meal!

Dave: Each chef we work with prepares a meal based on foraged foods that I bring into the restaurant a few days before the Urban Foray. I hunt what is ready, and always have the best bag for the chef and restaurant that is sponsoring the foray. It’s the same items we forage, but ready to eat!

CMM: What’s so special about this weeks foray?

Dave: First, you’ll meet a great chef and long time restaurateur, Ian Nelson, he’s witty but also serious. Ask him about the spatula he has framed by the grill! We will meet at 6:00 pm at Jam Restaurant (2853 North Kedzie) and then head out for a urban walk for an hour and a half or so, and then head back to see what Ian has cooked up for us.

He’ll explain each dish as he’s preparing it, and you’ll probably have one of the best meals of your life. Seriously sometimes these chefs take my wild ingredients to a level I never thought possible. And, it’s on a Friday, and it happens to coincide with WTTW shooting the foray for an upcoming series called “Urban Nature”.


Monarda, Chef  Ian Nelson’s favorite secret weapon

The cost for a four course chef prepared meal if $50 a person, some drinks included, but folks can bring their own favorite wines.


Dessert at Jam

The cost for the foray alone, without the meal is $40.00 per person, $70 per couple – but when you register let them know you saw that a Chicago Mushroom Man fan gets the tour for $25 per person!

The dinner portion of the evening is $50 per person.

More information can be found here

Please RSVP by contacting Dave Odd either by messenger or at 847-409-8623 via text or phone call or call Jam at (773) 292-6011.

Unfortunately, due to an injury I (Rob) can’t attend, but I hope each and everyone of you take some time Friday to learn some great edible species and have a fantastic meal!



October 22nd Urban and Forest Foraging Trip with Chef Driven Lunch!

Dave Odd of Odd Produce and Eat the Neighbrhood will host a foray for the general public on Sunday October 22nd at 10:00 am departing from 1042 Pleasant Street in Oak Park, Illinois. Kids under 13 are always half price.

Dave has spent over 10 years scouting out the best foraging spots in the Chicago area, and supplying restaurants with some of the freshest and wildest ingredients.

The Foray will feature a 1.5 hour walk in Oak Park and guarantees at least 50 edible urban species. The foray also includes at least one hour in the woods and concentrates on edible mushrooms.

ramp flower

Don’t miss this fantastic late season jaunt.

A Chef driven lunch will be served at Carnivore, Inc – Oak Park premier farm to table meat and seafood shop, comprised of locally farmed, wild and foraged foods.

The fee is $60 per person, $110 per couple. The shop is BYOB so feel free to drop you beverages in the morning and have the refrigerated for your meal.

Reserve you slot by calling 847-409-8623

Foraging Tour August 27th with Dave Odd of Odd Produce and “Eat the Neighborhood” Tours

Fall mushroom season is around the corner, and to kick it off Carnivore Meats and Seafood of Oak Park, Illinois is sponsoring an “Eat the Neighborhood” foraging tour. You’ll learn over 50 species of local plants, and with a short run to a local woods might just find the first Maitake of the season.

Meet Sunday at 10:00 am at Carnivore, 1062 Pleasant, Oak Park. Open to all.

Cost is $60.00 and includes a chef prepared meal of wild food and local meats.



Big hen

80 pound Maitake

Morel Fact or Fiction Game! Updated for 2019!

Hey all, it’s time to play Morel: Fact or Fiction!

Photo - Jinxie the Wonder Mongrel - Oakridge, OR

Photo – Jinxie the Wonder Mongrel – Oakridge, OR

Morel Season ain’t going to start Chicago area for about a couple weeks if I’m lucky or three if I’m bad, but being one of the more middling climates we Chicagoans get to spend a lot of time reading the Morel Forums.

Most serious mushroom hunters and mycologists stay out of them after the first week, we just can’t stand more than a week of debunking “traditional knowledge” that has been passed on for the last 100 years and we give up.

This is a simple set of True or False questions to test your knowledge about the Morel Mushroom. While some of the answers will surprise you, science is science, and sometimes you’ve got to go against tradition. I look forward to the debunking of the debunking.

Morels Fruit in one night, “Popping Up” at the size that they’ll be.

True or False?

Morels pin like any other mushrooms, then begin to fruit and grow under the right conditions. They start small and grow for about two to three weeks. There are several time lapse videos that show quite well their growth. Folks who say things like, “if you’re quiet enough, on a dark night, you can hear ’em pop!” are full of more than mushrooms.

legend has it

Legend has it that this notorious morel hunter from one of the the Driftless Region of the State of Wisconsin wasn’t careful walking at night while hunting morels with a flashlight, while they were popping. And boy diggity did that fellar pop, or what?

You must carry your morels in a mesh bag so they drop their spores, if you don’t “seed” your patch it’ll die out.

True or False?

Many folks carry mesh bags or baskets, and many mushrooms drop their spores after they’re cut and the gills dry slightly. But Morels are Ascomycetes and release their spores differently than most mushrooms. The release when they’re ready to release through asci, and especially in the case of young fruiting bodies, may not release at all.

Morels and are just the reproductive organ of the larger organism known as the mycelium. The mycelium may have been there for longer than your grandpappy’s been alive. For most species of Morels to keep growing they just need to continue exchanging nutrients for sugars with the root ball of the tree it’s partnered with. Morels can become saprotrophic upon the death of the tree host, at that point the mycelium will quickly (over the next few years) use up all of the energy of the root ball, fruiting prolifically. That’s why you’re looking especially close under dead trees for that honey hole.

For the serious Morel hunter using handled paper bags or five gallon buckets protect your Morels from damage that they inflict on themselves grating against the mesh of the bag. One of the best professional foragers I know only uses five gallon buckets because he’s tramping through dense underbrush, another who hunts Morels eight months a year uses a mesh bag. They’re both wrong, err, maybe they’re both right! Let the arguing begin!

(but I’m using two five gallon buckets with guitar straps and 3/8ths holes drilled all over, you gotta do what you gotta do!)

Grey Morels eat better than Yellow Morels!

True or False?

They are exactly the same!

All mushrooms are “born” with the same number of cells that they will have at maturity. The need sunlight, water, and nutrients to fully mature.

All Grey Morels will turn into Yellow Morels if given the above. There are no Grey Morels in North America, they are immature Yellow Morels. (or is it there are no Yellow Morels, there are only mature Grey Morels?) Either way the species are genetically the same, regardless of color and size.

If they’re grey, and still small let them sit for a few days. If they don’t grow then dump a few gallons of water near them. If that don’t work get on your knees and pray to your mushroom gods.

Morels grow wherever the spores land.

True or False?

There are at a minimum 19 species of Morels in the US, 14 of which have only been typed in the last seven years or so. Different species of Morels have different mycorrhizal mutually symbiotic relationships with differing trees. Morels generally have distinct macroscopic properties that can be determined with careful examination if you take the time to use a key. Dropping the spores of a Morel that is associated with Cottonwood Trees at the base of a Fir Tree will do no good for the Fir, the Morel or anything else.

You need to look carefully everywhere for morels, they are sneaky bastards.

True or False?

Morels are sneaky bastards! Here’s Mushroom King Weipert finding them in a hole from a root ball. But that’s not all, pro hunters will tell you to move at a good clip, not wasting your time checking every leaf, tree or outhouse!

Look for the big “Flag” Morel, that one flag that signifies others are around. Find the flag and then slowly and carefully inspect all around it in a radius that grows each revolution. This is the time for careful consideration of every leaf under the tree, not every leaf in the forest.

If your plan is a nice walk in the woods, by all means take your time. If you want to come home with a few bags of the finest landfish possible then cover lot’s of ground, know your trees, and hit the trees that are likely to produce a flush.

Pulling your morels will kill your patch!

True or False

Cutting Morels will leave a butt to rot and kill your patch! or You’ve got to pull so the mycelium breaks and “y’s” off making it stronger! Both methods are wrong! Errr, RIGHT! Pulling a mushroom does effect the mycelium, that’s right it yanks the tiny threads and rips them, and the theory that the mycelium “y’s” off and makes the network stronger has been shown as fact. Cutting your Morel, pinching it, and leaving a bit on the ground doesn’t effect the mycelium any more than not picking it at all, and might even be better than leaving a whole Morel to rot.

What’s great about this video is that the original research that Grey and Yellow Morels being the SAME species came out before the video was posted.

An ongoing study by the Oregon Mycological Society has shown that for Chanterelles at least pulling your mushrooms leads to higher yields, About 25% more mushrooms fruited from the beds that were yanked out, as opposed to the beds that were cut. I urge you to do your own real research, pull them babies and cut the butts in the field. Get back to me in 25 years and let me know how it’s turned out.

Use whatever method you’re most comfortable with, or what you’ve been taught. But remember to cut your butt stem so you don’t bring dirt into you bag, basket, bucket or whatever the hell you’re carry that 50 pounds of mushrooms out of the woods in.

Morels have no real nutritional value!

True or False?

morel nutrition factMorel Minerals ProteinMorel Carbs

Morels are actually a pretty healthy food. High in vitamin D, B complex, fiber, minerals, and relatively high in protein. You need to cook all mushrooms or you’ll get almost nothing out of them, the cells are made of “chitin” and not cellulose like most foods we eat. The chitin is strong and won’t release the nutrients without softening the walls by cooking. Since Morels contain a small amount of hydrazine it’s a good idea to cook that rocket fuel out of them anyway.

You know what, screw that nutritional information, both you and I know you’re going to throw them in a pound of butter. How ever you cook them you only get them for a few weeks a year, as long as you can buckle your belt when you’re done it’s all good!

You’ve got to soak your morels in salt water overnight, otherwise they’ll be too buggy?

True or False?

Folks do this to kill the bugs, but if you’re not slicing them you’re eating them bugs anyway, so give them a quick rinse if they’re a little dirty (which they wont be too dirty because you were careful and cut all the butt stems and any nasty parts off in the field, right?)

If you’re slicing them why bother soaking them, it robs them of flavor. Cut them and slap your knife down on the board as them little critters try to scamper away. Your aim will get better – the more times you miss and hit your grandmothers only heirloom table, or cut you little ones fingers off – I guarantee!

Wet morels don’t bring as much money, no one wants a waterlogged piece of slimy trash that was once a Morel, and the fresh dry ones taste better, last longer and have more protein (you know, because the bugs are fresh!)

You can eat Morels in the field!

True or False?

You actually need to fully cook all wild mushrooms. Mushroom cellular walls are comprised of chitin, and mammals are used to digesting cellulose. Humans (that’s you by the way) can’t digest chitin, nor can we get the nutrients from the mushrooms, and chitin has an adverse affect on our digestive system (race you to the bathroom!)

The good news is that a couple of hundred of generations before you and I were born humans discovered fire. Cooking meat allowed us to be able to digest more animal protein and enlarged our brains (a lot of good that’s done us so far!) But cooking mushrooms allow us to break down the chitin cellular wall and get all the good nutrients.

If you want to eat raw mushrooms in the field stick to sampling Oyster mushrooms every now and then.

You can eat False Morels, they’re great!

True or False?


Well, from what I hear they are pretty tasty. The problem is the toxin in a few Gyromitra spp. builds up in your body and you’ll never know when you’ll get enough to get you violently ill, or for that matter enough that you cough up your kidneys and liver. Some Gyromitras, False Morels sometimes called  Gyromitrin or specifically, N-methyl-N-formylhydrazine. (There’s that damned rocket fuel again!) There are some species perfectly safe to eat. This article is about Morchella spp, and we won’t go into here, mainly because there are other sources for Verpa and Gyromitra out there. Be sure of you ID, know which are safe, and enjoy.

You’ll find many folks ID’ing Gyromitra as edible, often stating that they’ve been eating them for generations and “I ain’t dead yet!” Well that’s just frigging dandy, and it’s quite possible that they’ll never suffer any ill effects. Gyromitra does cause 2 – 4% of mushroom fatalities. If you see someone telling folks incomplete information regarding this mushroom it’s your duty to tell the whole story.

Tom Volk, Mycologist at University of Wisconsin, La Crosse says, “Gyromitrin is a hemolytic toxin (i.e. it destroys red blood cells) in humans, other primates, and dogs. It is toxic to the central nervous system and damages the liver and gastrointestinal tract. It may act by interfering with transaminases, particularly those having a pyridoxal phosphate cofactor. Vitamin B6 is used in the treatment. As in cyclopeptide poisoning, a relatively long latent period ensues (6 to 12 hours) between ingestion and symptoms. The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, distention, weakness, lassitude, and headache; if the condition is severe, these may develop into jaundice, convulsions, coma, and death. Methemoglobinuria and very low blood sugar are found in laboratory tests.”

Morels are the only safe mushroom to hunt!

True or False?

80 pound Maitake

80 pound Maitake

If you think this one is true you’re missing a whole lot of fine mushrooms. Above is a photo of what was an 86 pound Hen of the Woods. I had to cut into three pieces to carry it out of the woods.When I’m out hunting Morels I’m also looking for Ramps, and Nettles, and on the way home wild garlic and wild onion on the road sides, as well as Dryads Saddle (P. saqumosus) and Chicken of the Woods (L. sulphureus) and other early fruiting mushrooms in the woods and on the trees as I drive.

There’re a group of mushrooms called the “Foolproof Four” and I usually add two more to them for the Foolproof Four plus Two! I’ve managed to make a pretty good living knowing these mushrooms, and you should know them also.

Learn these additional mushrooms and you’ll never be without. Sometimes it’s just easier looking for a ten pound Hen of the Woods, or the bright orange Chicken of the Woods than it is finding a couple of dozen 1/4 ounce morels.

One more thing, remember to turn GIS on when using your camera, and post your photos of your honey hole widely!

Whatever you’re doing, have fun, eat well, and teach each other.

If you’re in the Midwest don’t forget to check out our Guide to Midwest Morel Festival for 2019!

Special thanks go to L. Sulphureus, Oregon based professional forager and artist for prompting this post by asking for Morel Myths on his facebook page

2016 – The Very Busy Year

I’ve not updated in quite a while. Last year was quite busy. In fact I lost most of my woods time to the day job. I managed about 60 hours a week, possibly fifty – depending who you ask. I still managed to pick Juneberries, Elderflowers, Elderberries, Black Walnuts, Hazelnuts, Aronia Berries, and a few hundred pounds of Hen of the Woods (Maitake), and exactly two morels during a trip (no pun intended) to Starved Rock State Park Lodge.

I got to the woods as often as possible. besides the LaSalle County, Illinois trip we spent many weekends in the Cook County Forest Preserves on short hikes throughout the summers. We covered Chicken of the Woods on old friend’s stump that produces after each rain, oyster mushrooms until the first hard freeze and went down to Brown County and Bloomington, Indiana were our good friend Tom had just moved into his first house.

During that trip we harvested Honey Mushrooms some unidentified boletes, several maitake, a few oysters and as many geodes as I could carry. We also had the great experience building a 1,600 foot pen to house his herd of American Guinea hogs, later to be expanded into 3 runs into the ravine. We also had a great time at Tom’s first hosting of a community fire and dinner, and got caught up in the Brown County Hilly 100 bicycle race.

I’ll miss the “Simply Mushroom, Simply Music Festival” for the second year in a row, unfortunately the massive planning for the music and mushroom fest is too much at the time, but hopefully it’ll be back next year.

In the fall we hosted two forays for a botanical brewery that calls Chicago their home. Over two days, a week apart, in September and in the midst of a drought we brought over 20 people each Tuesday to the woods and taught them responsible foraging, mushroom identification and urban edible pant identification. Everyone managed full bags of fresh mushrooms, and many other left with flowers and greenery from our urban tour.I don’t have explicate permission to share the brewery’s name but if you find yourself on west Chicago Avenue, near a fantastic botanical brewery you should stop in. I recommend the Ginger beer, one of the most refreshing brews I’ve ever had.

We also hosted a smaller foray with Carnivore Oak Park. ten of us braved cooler, but wetter weather. Though was a strange fall we managed drought conditions and succeeded, after the first late rain we still managed to succeed.

The greatest woods to hunt the Hen of the Woods or Maitake, these are my favorite woods. I’ve been going there long before a passion for mushrooms developed. Even after the rain, they had never have produced at such low levels. During the drought the healthy Oak Trees with good root balls produced minimally, the dying or dead trees didn’t until the first insignificant rain.

One morning I had a friend pick me up at 5:30 am, we hit the woods before first light, it had rained mildly but it was in late October. Rosalyn picked me up, and just before first light my friend Jeremy met us. It was strange, barely light, I with with two chefs who didn’t know trees or woodways or have a flashligh we were stumbling and bumbling in the woods. It was lovely!

My big find was a case of Budweiser in cans, the cardboard rotted away. I lost faith at that point, even though they both found bags of mushrooms. I didn’t bother with the woods again, getting busy at work, hungry to get back out. The hairs on my neck occasionally standing straight after a rain. I knew I should.

I’m proud to say, this was the first time in many years that I’ve left more mushrooms in the woods than I could carry.

Pictures coming soon.





2017 Midwest Morel Festival Guide

Original Artwork - Claudia McGhee

Original Artwork – Claudia McGehee

Morel Festivals of Midwest

It’s soon to be spring in the Midwest and with spring comes urgent need to get to the woods and beat out the crowds for the coveted morel mushroom. With hundreds of thousands of morel enthusiasts competing for diminishing hunting grounds and urgently checking morel maps and forums to see if morels are fruiting locally, communities with prime hunting grounds are planning entertaining and educational festivals. Most festivals are replete with carnivals, parades, grand forays with prizes for the largest haul, and morel auctions there’s fun for the entire family.

Simply put, Morels have an incredible, meaty flavor and are the most sought after mushroom in the US. Many folks begin hunting morels and then move on to other mushrooms, but most continue to only hunt this special fungi. If you’ve never hunted them, this is your opportunity to get out there and learn, while meeting professional foragers and learning from some of the best.

Some festivals, Like Illinois’s Midwest Morel Festival in Ottawa, Illinois concentrate on mushroom picking education through their Morel University classes, others like Wisconsin’s Musconda Morel Festival offer free rides back to your hotel for those that over indulge. All festivals stress the educational and recreational experience that a good day in the woods brings.

Each festival is put together by dedicated folks who enjoy the outdoors and are committed to others having good experiences. Whether you’re a beginning morel hunter or a seasoned pro, there’s always something to learn and great folks to meet at these fantastic events.

There have been countless books written on Morel Hunting, and I’m sure you’ll be able to find a few at each festival, but the real deep seated knowledge comes from doing and learning from some of the best is not only possible, but highly achievable by attending one of these fests.

Please click the title of each festival to go directly to that festivals website.



Mansfield Village Mushroom Festival – April 29th – 30th, 2017

Where: Mansfield Village – Parke County, Indiana

When I was a young lad my mother’s first brand new car was a 1967 VW Transport. My earliest memory is traveling with my parents and seven kids and two dogs to go to family reunions in  Crawford County, Indiana. My older sisters would lead the singing, “We’re going, we’re going, we’re going to Marengo, Indiana, We’re going, we’re going we’re going to Marengo, Indiana!” was the constant refrain.

Always from Chicago we’d hit 65 to Indy and then 37 south and turn left toward English, Indiana, the county seat. Each summer we’d take a few extra hours, often to my fathers chagrin, to travel Parke County and hit the many covered bridges on the way back after a long weekend of too much food and too much play down on the farm.

This festival pairs the best family entertainment, a judged car show, and mushroom hunting. There’s nothing better for a spring weekend than to roll into town and put up for a decent show of oldies music, good beer, and decent food, all while checking out the best in central Indiana’s antique cars. One thing you won’t find here is a guided hunt. There’ll be people to tell you where to go (whether you believe them or not is up to you) but there are prizes for every category.

Don’t miss the daylong Morel Auction on the steps of the Red Barn beginning promptly at 10:00 am on Main Street. Yeah, seriously, the Old Red Barn in Downtown is a feature and important part of this community. Hit it up, hang out and let this mushroom fest connect with you and your family.

The Mushroom Festival Car Show will take place Sunday, in the Old Barnyard, adjacent to the Red Barn.  Dash Plaques will go to the first 200 Entries.  Free oldies music on the day of the show.  Registration & judging begins at 8:00 and continues until Noon.  Awards will be presented at 2 PM.

And of course I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend that you and yours would travel the county and see each of the 31 different covered bridges.



Irvine, Kentucky – April 29th – 30th –  Mountain Mushroom Festival

Nestled on a peninsula of land surrounded by the Natural Bridge Resort State Park, Irvine is about 30 miles South/Southwest of Lexington, Kentucky. The Mountain Mushroom Festival features about 100 booths of arts and crafts and vendors. A parade, and carnival will also be ongoing, a 5k fun run, mushroom auction, tractor show, antique car show and cake decoration demonstration and contest are in the works.

Setting itself apart from other festivals an agate and mineral hunt is scheduled for the Mountain Mushroom Festival has, a canoe and kayak 6 mile run and a mushroom photography show. Daniel Spicer won last years men’s 5k race, Ashley Hood-Morley snagged the women’s best time fir the Fungus 5k footrace.

The Mountain Morel Festival is the only known to have a beauty and talent pageant, from 6 months to 21 years, boys and girls.


Ottawa Banner

Ottawa, Illinois – May 6th –  Midwest Morel Fest

On the banks of the Illinois River about an hour and a half from Chicago  and about a fifteen minute drive from Starved Rock State Park and it’s famous lodge, the Midwest Morel Fest will be a large draw, featuring a “Learn to Hunt” Guided Foray by Morel University, and the Championship Foray on Saturday. The Fest also features a morel museum, a home made craft fair and tours of the local and beautiful Reddick Mansion.

The Ottawa, Illinois Midwest Morel Fest has been the place to be since 1996, and Ottawa is it’s third home, originally begun in Magnolia, Illinois for ten years it had a great run. The Henry, Illinois Chamber of Commerce organized it for several years until the economic downturn, and now the fine folks in Ottawa do the hard work of organizing it.

Sure to delight will be the home brew beer tasting and home brew seminar during their Morel Mash Up a silent auction and of course, the Morel Auction.

This years festival is a one day spectacular beginning at 7:30 am for registration, 8:30 Morel University “How to hunt Morels” class. Guided hunts and the Championship Hunt beginning at 9:00 am, prizes awarded at 2:00. Beer tasting begins at 12:30, the annual Morel Auction kicks off at 1:00pm

Tom Nauman, the fests founder tells me, “Last year was a fantastic success, morels started a couple weeks early and stuck around a couple weeks after the fest, 2016 was such a huge success. With the warm winter it seems we’ve got the perfect weekend picked and we’re anticipating a lot of repeat attendees so sign up early!”



The Valedictorian and above the Illinois Morel Honor Society

The 2016 Illinois State Morel Mushroom Hunting Championship awards were presented to: Largest Morel went to Randy Dedecker (length plus girth at 12.5 inches) and the Grand Champion with the most found was Randy Dedecker, again, as usual. Lisa Walner, the woman’s champion snagged 17 morels.



Original Artwork – L. Sulpureus – Prints Available here:

Wyoming, Illinois – May 6th – Stark County Morel Fest

This one day Morel Festival is actually set for the first Saturday in May every year, by county decree. This festival is is halfway between Moline and Davenport, Illinois and features a morel auction and the usual round up of excellent middle American festival fare such as pork chops and sausage sandwiches as well as a round up of kids activities like ring toss and hay rides.

The new home for the fest is Catalpa Grove, five miles due west of Wyoming on route 17. The Rock Island Trail abuts the Catalpa Grove, and the and the Spoon River flows through the grounds, but don’t tell anyone, this might just be the best kept secret for small mouth bass fishing, according to the locals.

Duke Frisby, the Stark County Morel Fest founder is a stalwart in the Morel Mushroom hunting community in Central Illinois – The history of how this festival got started is really the method to get things done anywhere – whether it be a small community or large. – during a meeting with county officials regarding putting in new canoe ramps to further recreation and tourism the county decided to send it to die in the Road Department. During the same meeting and without skipping a beat Duke decided to punt and get some yardage for his community, he suggested that the county host a Morel Mushroom Festival to bring in tourists, and spur the local economy. They bit the  bait and it’s been nine years of very successful Stark County Morel Festivals.

Duke Frisby told me via secured communications that a group of rabble rousers from Missouri way are going to hit the low Montana plains and score a several hundred pounds of morels between them, at least 100 pounds of which are coming back to the auction and a morel fry up at the Festival.

The Catalpa Grove Inn will be the Morel Auction Headquarters beginning at 2:00 pm, with space for overflow bidders sheltered outside it should be a full house. Rumor is that there will be a poker run that culminates at the Inn if the weather is right, so bid early and bid often! In previous years the Lions Club hosted a Biscuits and Gravy Breakfast, as of press time we were unable to find confirmation on the biscuits.


Richmond Banner

Richmond, Missouri – May  4th – 6th –  “The Mushroom Capital of the World” Morel Festival 

“The Mushroom Capital of the World” Morel Festival kicks off May 4th through the 6th. Attracting upwards of 5,000 people it features a kids hay ride, grand parade, carnival and a 5k run, the festival is in it’s 24th year. Organizer Natalie Lamar, a fourth generation morel hunter says, “The morel season kicks off next week, I find it a little odd that there have been morels found to the north, usually they’re fruiting here first, but with a few cool nights and warms days we’ll see a fantastic crop.”

In its 37th year the festival that began as a sidewalk sale in 1980, promises to add more food vendors to feed the over 5,000 expected attendees. Apparently the Society for Creative Anachronism also attends this festival.




Mesick, Michigan – May 12th – 14th –  Mesick Annual Mushroom Festival

The Mesick Morel Festival lies just outside the Manistee National Forest and Mesick is located about 15 miles south of Traverse City, Michigan . The Fest features a flea market, an antique car show and three days of carnivals – moms ride free with kids on Mother’s Day. This fest also features a magic show, beer tent and horse pull. Sponsored by the local Lions Club the Mesick Fest also features a Softball Tournament, a 5k run, Grand Parade and a carnival. After Saturday’s Parade there will be a “Mud Bog Competition” in which 4 WD racers will compete in a mud track race.

The Mesick Chamber of Commerce concludes that Mesick is the Mushroom Capital of the Midwest, as well as being a small town with a big heart. I do know that they run a heck of a parade!

This Festival has too many activities to list, the days are packed whether you want to spend time on rides and games with the kids or want to sneak away into the woods, it’s got something for everyone.


Lewiston Banner

Lewiston, Michigan – May 13th  –  Lewiston Morel Mushroom Festival

The Lewiston Morel Mushroom Festival is a one day event with morning guided forays, mushrooms tastings, an arts and craft show as well as an outdoor equipment show featuring archery, hunting and equipment. Lewiston is in Eastern Michigan in the Center of Grayling State Forest, about 30 miles north of Huron National Forest. The Grayling State Forest is home to some of the largest morels found.


National Banner
Boyne City, Michigan – May 17th – 21st  –  “National Morel Mushroom Festival

Up the glove in Michigan, spot on Lake Charlevoix the Boyne City Morel Fest is in the heart of Michigan’s Morel Country. A Carnival Midway is set up for the fest, with Music Friday and Saturday Night. The Grand Championship Foray is on Saturday, on private grounds, with participants bused over to the undisclosed location.

“I’ve been going since I was a youngster,” says Ashleigh Harris of Michigan Mushroom Marketplace, “And this is the seventh year as the sole mushroom vendor. This fest has not only cooking demonstrations but a tasting and cooking competition,” says Harris.

Ashleigh and Ken Harris, her co-owner of MMM, lost their retail shop in 2016 due to an electrical fire and have since focused on wholesale to restaurants across Michigan of both foraged and cultivated mushroom and wild foods. They’ll be opening their retail shop in 2017 and again feature prepared foods, pizzas and ready to go soups and compound butters. The entire mushroom community is anxiously awaiting their new store, myself especially because she owes me a pound of compound butter.


Muscoda, Wisconsin – May 20th – 21st –  Morel Mushroom Festival

The Musconda, Wisconsin morel festival, in it’s 34th year, the festival is sponsored by the local American Legion. The Town of Musconda is nestled in state forests on the Wisconsin river halfway between Madison and Prairie du Chien, and attracts folks as far away as Chicago and the Quad Cities attracting about 3,000 people. The prime morel spots west of Lake Michigan happen to be right around Musconda.

Cinda Johnson is one of the folks that help organize the fest, Cinda says shes been coming to the festival for over 20 years, “I love being outdoors in the woods, I love the possibility of finding that honey spot.” As usual she says, “the mainstage music will be at the firehouse, but this year they’re having a DJ at Mushroom Head Quarters.”

The festival funds the local American Legion Hall’s activities, including local little league teams.



Minnesota! Black Morel Hootenanny – May 19th  – May 21st Superior National Forest

This is a semi-private event, ticketed event – part camping trip, part music and food festival, part certification course. Located north of Duluth, Minnesota this trip is sponsored by Gentleman Forager, a company that specializes in full day and weekend forays throughout Minnesota.

The chefs the Gentleman Forager wholesale to come out and lead cooking demonstrations and cook most the meals. Local musicians set up and put on professional shows. The location is the real star though, and if you’ve ever wanted to see “God’s Country,” look no further.

This is certainly an a-typical morel mushroom event, camping, guided mushroom foraging, chef driven meals, certifications, and a slight edge of roughing it, this may not be for everyone, but if you’ve got the steel, then you should check it out.

Sometimes there are lesser events that don’t really include a festival. If you’re in the area, they’re really worth checking out, though may not be a family destination. These I list below.

St. Louis area – Pere Marquette Morel Festival – April 23 pierre-marquette

Pere Marquette Morel Festival is at one of Illinois most beautiful State Parks, with a lodge built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s in the Arts and Crafts style. Arts and craft vendors will be selling attractive handmade merchandise, and I predict there will be plenty of “backroom” morel sales in the parking lot.

This will be a great day for people from Saint Louis to Peoria. If the season is early it’ll blow away other festivals with large blondes, if it’s late then your practically guaranteed to go home with the great black morels that blanket the area!

Come for the festival, and stay in the lodge! You can rent a cabin, stay in the “Modern Wing” (circa 1988) or the Historic Wing which has the best views. With phenomenal fried chicken dinners the lodge’s restaurant is a mandatory stop after a day of morel hunting. Stop by the lodge’s winery (yes, the State Park Lodge has its own winery!) for a tasting and bring a few bottles home. You can rent a boat, a bicycle or even a horse!

This festival includes prizes for the smallest, largest and most gathered during the great hunt that kicks off at 1:00 pm. Don’t blink because you might miss this one, it starts at 11:00 and and ends at 3:00 pm. Prizes include a nights stay in the lodge!


Brown County, Indiana – May 3 – Nashville, Indiana

On Saturday, May 3rd, 2014, Brown County State Park will celebrate the 8th Annual Morel Mushroom Sale & Festival! Cooking demonstrations, kid’s coloring tents, and prizes for the largest morel.

There will be a noon cooking demonstration, morel sale at 1:00 pm, as well as local musical acts. 3:30 pm is the largest, smallest and most prize awards.



Brown County, Indiana – On Hiatus   – “Simply Music, Simply Morel Fest”

Unfortunately, as of this writing, the “Simply Music, Simply Morels Festival” is not being organized for 2017. We’ll update you as soon as new information is known. 

Beautiful Brown County is about an hour from Indianapolis and about four and a half hours from Chicago. Rolling hills and beautiful scenery of this driftless region, along with the abundance of recreational forest land make this a truly special part of the Midwest. The people in Brown County will welcome you and make you feel like you belong. Brown County is home to Brown County State Park, Yellow Wood State Forest as well as parts of the Hoosier National Forest.

With the emphasis on education the fest has in the past booked great mushroom hunters to lead forays, Folks like Leon Shernoff of Mushroom, the Journal, Eric Osborne of Magnificent Mushrooms Andy Methven co-author of 100 Cool Mushrooms and UI Mycologist, and Thomas “The Mushroom King” Weipert from Lewiston, Montana  comingto to lead forays, cooking demonstrations and giving lectures on tree identification. Rob Poe (me) spoke in 2015, with Dave Gold of Odd Produce in Chicago about how to make a living foraging ethically full time.


Now with almost every weekend over the next month and a half booked, all I can say is, have fun! And save some for me!

Feel free to contact me to add your festival to the list

All morel hunters should take a look at the Morel Fact or Fiction Game!

Final Fall Foray from Carnivore Meats and Seafood – Sunday, October 11, 10 am

This fall’s two previous forays on September 19th and the 27th were such fun, and rewarding we’ve added one more.


Maitake are late this year, the first fruiting over the last week or so, yesterday we the first mature maitake of the season harvested, rain may be coming Thursday and Friday, so be ready!

The foray is designed for the beginning mushroom and plant forager, concentrating on local, easily identified, edible species that don’t have poisonous look-a-likes. Forays are for educational purposes so you’ll have a fuller understanding of mushroom species, biomes, fungi interrelation with tree and plant partnerships.

Our finds!

Our finds!

Species fruiting right now – Maitake (Hen of the Woods), Chicken of the Woods, Enoki, Oyster, Entoloma, Shrimp Entoloma, Honey Mushroom, Lion’s Mane (and other Hericium) Puffballs, Blewits, Boletes, Resinous Polypore, Berkeley’s polypore, Cauliflower Mushroom, Beefsteak, Reishi and so many other fine mushrooms!


Reserve your slot by calling 708.660.1100

After the Foray!

After the Foray!

Course fee is $40.00 per person, or $75.00 per couple. Includes forage driven, chef cooked meal.

BYOB meal

Fall 2015 Forays Planned

Finally some rain, and time to get out to the woods!

There are currently two guided forays planned, September 19th and the 27th. Both car pool from Carnivore Meats and Seafood – 1042 Pleasant Street, Oak Park – at 10:00 am (ish) and return for a communal meal with our finds around 2:00 – 3:00 pm.


Both are designed for the beginning mushroom and plant forager, concentrating on local, easily identified, edible species that don’t have poisonous look-a-likes. Forays are for educational purposes so you’ll have a fuller understanding of mushroom species, biomes, fungi interrelation with tree and plant partnerships.


Forays are relaxed and fun, family friendly and designed so you’ll be able to walk away with enough knowledge to add to your next meal after a good walk in the woods.

Species fruiting right now – Maitake (Hen of the Woods), Chicken of the Woods, Enoki, Oyster, Entoloma, Shrimp Entoloma, Honey Mushroom, Lion’s Mane (and other Hericium) Puffballs, Blewits, Boletes, Resinous Polypore, Berkeley’s polypore, Cauliflower Mushroom, Beefsteak, Reishi and so many other fine mushrooms!

As well as; American Ginger, Lamb’s Quarter, Ramp bulbs, Wild Grapes, Hazelnuts, Hickory, Black Walnuts, Wild Pecan and so much more!

Reserve your slot by calling 708.660.1100

Course fee is $40.00 per person, or $75.00 per couple. Includes forage driven, chef cooked meal.

BYOB meal



Remember, before you come out, read this short regarding your first time out.