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

Dave Golde 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.

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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

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Morel Fact or Fiction Game! Updated for 2017!

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 month if I’m lucky or two 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?

Gyromitra

Well, from what I hear they are pretty tasty. The problem is the toxin in 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. Gyromitras, False Morels sometimes called “Reds,” “Beefsteaks,” or “Snowdrift Mushrooms” all contain Gyromitrin or specifically, N-methyl-N-formylhydrazine. (There’s that damned rocket fuel again!)

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 from Gyromitra, but it 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.”

But for all you folks whose uncle also happens to be their father who have been eating them for 30 years, please don’t listen to science, continue to eat them – we could always use more data points.

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 2017!

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

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.

IMAG10731

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!

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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

2015 Midwest Morel Festival Guide

Original Artwork - Claudia McGhee http://goo.gl/tKUYhC

Original Artwork – Claudia McGehee
http://goo.gl/tKUYhC

Morel Festivals of Midwest

It’s 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 Indiana’s Brown County Simply Music Simply Morel Festival have main stages and professional musicians playing late into the night, 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.

browncounty2015

Brown County, Indiana – April 23rd – 27th   – “Simply Music, Simply Morel Fest”

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 Hossier National Forest.

I met one of the lead organizers, Stephen Russel, in passing last year. I had been plugging logs with Shiitake and Oyster sawdust, pasteurizing wood chips for a Wine Cap Stropharia path through the woods and was exhausted by the time I got to the festival. Much of the afternoon and night was a blur, meetings, lectures, new people from all over the midwest, the amount of information I consumed was truly astounding. Since last year’s fest I have had the good fortune of many late night chats with Russel, from cultivation techniques to ensuring the safety of wild mushrooms sold to stores and restaurants.

“Mushroom hunting is more than just a hobby for many of the people who come to the festival. It is a passion, really a lifestyle,” Stephen Russel told me recently. “Folks are a part of a unique social gathering that brings about all of the best aspects of mushroom hunting – nature, friendship, and family – into a weekend of full of outings and music.” His voice became excited as he told me, “It is a truly unique experience that is now one of my favorite weekends to look forward to each year.”

With the emphasis on education the fest has 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 will be coming to lead forays, cooking demonstrations and giving lectures on tree identification. Rob Poe (me) will be speaking, with Dave Golde of Odd Produce in Chicago about how to make a living foraging ethically full time.

For Russel it’s really all about sharing knowledge and teaching others, “I really enjoy teaching people about wild mushroom identification. It’s a skill that not many people have, and once they get a taste of it, most people get a thirst for knowledge that is tough to quench.”

“I learned young, it is a tradition in this part of Indiana that goes back over 100 years, when there wasn’t enough for the pot we had to forage and hunt,” he told me voice cracking slightly, “that was life on an Indiana farm, even with the best black dirt in the world, it was hard to make sure everyone was well fed and the mortgage got paid. I like to teach about identification because it was important enough generations of Hoosiers to teach their children, it’s still important enough to teach to children today.

The Championship Foray was won last year by an outsider, which brings hope to us out of towners this year, Cameron Humfleep from Kentucky went home with first prize. Word is that Humfleep will be prowling the woods of Brown County again this year, so the challenge is on.

Kids 12 and under get in free, as usual.

Irvine

Irvine, Kentucky – April 25th – 26th –  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 and a mushroom photography show. Sam Kiser won last years 5k race, and …

Ottawa Banner

Ottawa, Illinois – May 2nd – 3rd –  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 on Friday, 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 around 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.

The Midwest Morel Fest Championship Foray has a $500.00 grand prize, sure to get those heavy hunters out, but anyone can come across a honey hole and walk away with a weeks pay. Last year the Largest Morel Prize of $500.00 went to James Lippold, and the Grand Champion with the most weight was Randy Dedecker.

Stark

Original Artwork – L. Sulpureus – Prints Available here: http://goo.gl/cy5E4T

Wyoming, Illinois – May 2nd – 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.

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  1st – 3rd –  “The Mushroom Capital of the World” Morel Festival 

“The Mushroom Capital of the World” Morel Festival kicks off May 1st through the 3rd. 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.”

Last year the festival was nearly canceled due to a surprise six inch snow storm, but the grand foray went on and was won by a local. Lamar says “Locals usually win every year, they know all the good spots.”  This year will also feature a pig roast as part of the annual golf tournament, known as the Deuce Classic, a largest morel contest and Mister and Miss Competition for kids under 10.

Iowa Fest Banner

McGregor, Iowa – Cancelled –  Iowa Morel Mushroom Fest

The Iowa Morel Fest was located on the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers. This is one of my favorite spots in the Upper Midwest. Across the Mississippi in Wisconsin is the Wyalusing State Park, with camp sites that overlook a 400 foot bluff, and as astronomy club with stargazing on Saturday nights. At the State Park you can rent canoes to explore the channel islands, or in McGregor you can rent motorized boats for the day. Just north of McGregor is the Effigy Mounds National Monument, a sacred place to many Native Americans.

After two years of hard work organizing the festival Nick Treondle doesn’t have the capacity to continue spending months setting it up.

“I’ll be starting in Southern Illinois and Indiana this year, harvesting morels, and working my way up to Minnesota, supplying buyers and restaurants all the way,” says Treondle. “This spring I’ll be sleeping under the stars, with a crew of four. But when I get to Central Wisconsin I’ll be headed to Door County for a four day, private morel camp.”

“I’ll be updating folks on my travels on facebook, and shipping morels all over the country.”

Mesick

Mesick, Michigan – May 8th – 10th –  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.

Lewiston Banner

Lewiston, Michigan – May 9th  –  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 14th – 17th  –  “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 bussed 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 fifth year as the sole mushroom vendor.” This fest has not only cooking demonstrations but a tasting and cooking competition, says Harris, who also sells prepared foods such as mushroom soups and compound butters made in a commercial kitchen and sold at Farmer’s Markets with her co-owner husband Ken, and soon at their wild mushroom specialty store in Petoskey, Michigan, which opens this summer.

Musconda

Muscoda, Wisconsin – May 16th – 17th –  Morel Mushroom Festival

The Musconda, Wisconsin morel festival, in it’s 32nd 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 east 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. Last year poor weather put the entire festival in doubt, but at the last minute local hunters came in from the woods with enough morels that the Hall was able to sell hundreds of one pound baskets fresh from the hunt. r_wildMorel-21web

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

It’s morel time, so let’s play “Morel Fact or Fiction Game – 2015 edition”

Canada Goose, Duck and Elk Sausage Recipes Coming Soon! Deer Gun Season Opening this weekend!

It’s fall sausage season, we’ve got a great set of recipes coming, and a great interview with one of the upper Midwest’s best hunting guides coming up after Thanksgiving. Below you’ll find just s sneak peek at our interview with Brian Klein. Later we’ll post the interview in it’s entirety and Brian will tell us what it was like hunting young, how it is now and share some of his favorite recipes.

Of course we’ll share wild mushroom/wild game sausage recipes with all our readers! 

Our friends at Klein Outdoor Adventures – Wisconsin based Outfitters and Hunting Guides have gifted us 20 pounds of Elk Trim, 10 pounds of Wild Goose Breast and 5 pounds of freshly hunted Duck breast for our annual Autumn Sausage making run. Klein Outdoor Adventures takes groups of up to 15 out for waterfowl hunting, though prefer smaller groups that lend themselves to better one on one skill sharing.

The Elk and Goose breast are both new to me in sausage making, and am looking for to the sweetness of the Elk, and the versatility of the Goose. We’ll be making a Swedish Potato Sausage with a slight twist, and Knockwurst Shiso blossom, and a Pineapple Sage Goose sausage.

Brian Klein is the Iowa 2012 Morel Champion, in 2013 he decided to not compete in order to ensure the Iowa Morel Festival would have enough experienced guides to lead forays. He’s not disappointed he didn’t compete, and loved showing his spots to new comers, and explaining who, when and why morels fruited.

I was quite surprised, after knowing him online for a while, and chatting with him fairly regularly and sending a buyers for his freshly picked Wisconsin Morels, that Brian was so soft spoken and easy going. His affable manner belies his years of hunting – it may make some folks gruff – being in the woods so regularly but a lifetime of training bird dogs have given Brian a certain softspokeness and inherent wisdom that comes across in every word he speaks.

Brian Klein3

Brian has been hunting as long as he can remember, “I’d help my dad train dogs since I was this big. (he gestures to the ground about knee high), There’re pictures of me in diapers with a puppy training, I’ve been hunting steady since I was twelve, Water Fowl is my big passion, I kind of got into that on my own, my dad took me a little bit, he wasn’t a big waterfowler, he was another bird guy, it’s always about the dogs for us. Bird hunting is my forte.”

“Deer hunting, I go to kill a couple deer for fun and to fill the freezer, it’s not my thing, I’m a waterfowler, I hunted 22 states last year, and 21 of them were for waterfowl, I went Elk hunting in New Mexico, which was fun, but nothing to me like the waterfowl. We just got back from North Dakota, I was on the Mississippi River this weekend, I was hunting here this morning, ducks, I’m hunting Wednesday morning – ducks, Friday morning – ducks. Then Saturday I go deer hunting Saturday/Sunday, then I come back Thursday for South Dakota for 9 days for water fowling.”

With Deer Gun Hunting Season opening in tomorrow in Wisconsin and most upper Midwest states, there’s no better time there’s not a better time for our first wild game post, and more are coming: While speaking with Brian I recalled when I lived in Madison, WI – a new FIB immigrant. None of my staff came in for the Friday, 4:00 pm shift at the quick lube center I was managing. All three no-call/no-showed, and the same happened for the three of them on Saturday. When they came into work on Monday I told each of them that they no longer were employed.

“It is like a National Holiday Weekend in Wisconsin,” Brian says, “Everything closes up, except hunting related businesses!”

Five minutes later I got a call from the Regional Manager, explaining to me that what I had witnessed was the first weekend of Deer Season, and if I followed through on terminating the three no-shows I would lead to the collapse of the entire economy of Western Wisconsin – Deer Season, even if it’s not now, it should be, a national holiday he said, and it would be me or deer season.

All three kept their jobs, and of course, each on had gotten their bucks the previous weekend.

Dates for Fall Forays

Laetiporus cincinnatus (Photo Thomas Westgard)

(Photo Thomas Westgard)

We’re setting dates for fall forays, and will update as soon as we have dates and times:

Each session will include a light lunch and snacks. Bring a cooler or cooler bag to keep you mushrooms cool while traveling.

Either August 30 or 31 – Afternoon foraging for mushrooms and berries partnered with a liqueur making session at Meztisoy Market in Pilsen (the hold up is reserving the room for the evening session). Attendees will be able to take home fruit liqueur and sample last years. Beginner experience level – Chicago Area Far South.

Either September 13/14th Mushroom foray and wild medicinal plants (with Chris Mayor of Chicago Wilderness School) afterward a session on tincture making, Beginner skill level. Chicago Area North.

Either September 27th or 28th will be a mushrooms foray/wild plant foray with a cooking demonstration (wild food meal with bread baking?) and meal at Meztisoy. Beginner/intermediate skill level. Chicago Area TBA.

In early October we may have an overnight, camping in Brown County Indiana. This will be an all day Saturday foraging trip, Open fire cooking, the farm raises organic chickens, pigs and the location of our mushroom logs. It’s directly across the street from Yellow Wood State Forest and a 10 minute drive from Brown County State Forest in Nashville, Indiana. Bonfire Saturday night, camping, then Sunday we’ll breakfast together, and hit the woods again before lunch and cook a community lunch before heading back to Chicago. Intermediate/experienced skill level.

Guide to Midwest Morel Festivals

Original Artwork - Claudia McGhee http://goo.gl/tKUYhC

Original Artwork – Claudia McGehee
http://goo.gl/tKUYhC

Morel Festivals of Midwest

It’s 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 the Brown County, Indiana Simply Music Simply Morel Festival have main stages and professional musicians playing late into the night, 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.

Brown County Banner

Brown County, Indiana – April 25th – 27th   – “Simply Music, Simply Morel Fest”

Beautiful Brown County is less than 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. Brown County is home to Brown County State Park, Yellow Wood State Forest as well as parts of the Hossier National Forest.

Randy Laverre began the Brown County Simply Music, Simply Morel Festival last year. He lives less than a mile from the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and attending the the Bluegrass Festival every year he decided that his passion of morel hunting deserved its own festival. Laverre began hunting morels when he was 13, his junior high friends dragged him out and taught him the knowledge to identify good morel spots, “What I really want to do is impart knowledge to people, I want them to learn something that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.” he says.

With the emphasis on education the fest has booked great mushroom hunters to lead forays, Folks like Leon Shernoff of Mushroom, the Journal, Alex “The Mad Russian” Babich from Mushroom Gear, Chris Matherly from Georgia, and Thomas “The Mushroom King” Weipert from Lewiston, Montana will be coming to lead forays, cooking demonstrations and giving lectures on tree identification.

Randy Laverre says that the real focus of the festival will be teaching the children. He’s been bringing his kids into the woods since they learned to walk. His eight year old son is better than he is at spotting morels, and his four year old daughter is just picking up the hobby. “The kids have their own foray, and kids 12 and under get in free all weekend.” says Laverre.

The Championship Foray was won last year by an outsider, which brings hope to us out of towners this year, Cameron Humfleep from Kentucky went home with first prize. Word is that Humfleep will be prowling the woods of Brown County again this year, so the challenge is on.

Irvine Mountain Banner

Irvine, Kentucky – April 26th – 27th –  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 and a mushroom photography show.

 

Ottawa BannerOttawa, Illinois – May 2nd – 3rd –  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 on Friday, 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.

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.

The Midwest Morel Fest Championship Foray has a $500.00 grand prize, sure to get those heavy hunters out, but anyone can come across a honey hole and walk away with a weeks pay.

Original Artwork - L. Sulpureus - Prints Available here: http://goo.gl/cy5E4T

Original Artwork – L. Sulpureus – Prints Available here: http://goo.gl/cy5E4T

Wyoming, Illinois – May 3rd – 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.

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  1st – 3rd –  “The Mushroom Capital of the World” Morel Festival 

“The Mushroom Capital of the World” Morel Festival kicks off May 1st through the 3rd. 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.”

Last year the festival was nearly canceled due to a surprise six inch snow storm, but the grand foray went on and was won by a local. Lamar says “Locals usually win every year, they know all the good spots.”  This year will also feature a pig roast as part of the annual golf tournament, known as the Deuce Classic, a largest morel contest and Mister and Miss Competition for kids under 10.

Iowa Fest Banner

McGregor, Iowa – May 8th – 11th –  Iowa Morel Mushroom Fest

Also in it’s second year the Iowa Morel Fest is located on the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers. This is one of my favorite spots in the Upper Midwest. Across the Mississippi in Wisconsin is the Wyalusing State Park, with camp sites that overlook a 400 foot bluff, and as astronomy club with stargazing on Saturday nights. At the State Park you can rent canoes to explore the channel islands, or in McGregor you can rent motorized boats for the day. Just north of McGregor is the Effigy Mounds National Monument, a sacred place to many Native Americans.

“Brian Klein won the Championship Foray last year, and this year is going to be leading forays to teach others his secrets,” says festival organizer Carl Hexom, “What I’m looking forward to the most is the eyes of the children as they pick their first monster morel on the free guided kid’s hunt.”

Featured lecturers and foray guides include Tom Volk, mycologist with University of Wisconsin, La Cross, Thomas “Mushroom King” Weipert, and local Brian Klein. Carl Hexom is also owner of Crazy Carls Silver Dollar Saloon, music venue for the festival. “We’ve got great bands, from Minitellica to 88 M.P.H to make sure everyone enjoys the weekend.” This festival is sure to be one of the more interesting morel festivals.

Hexom predicts that this will be a banner year for morels, and over 1,000 people will be traveling to enjoy the Iowa Morel Festival, his hope is that folks will learn new skills and come back year after year.

Mesick Banner

Mesick, Michigan – May 9th – 11th –  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.

Lewiston Banner

Lewiston, Michigan – May 10th  –  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 15th – 18th  –  “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 bussed 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 fourth year as the sole mushroom vendor.” This fest has not only cooking demonstrations but a tasting and cooking competition, says Harris, who also sells prepared foods such as mushroom soups and compound butters made in a commercial kitchen and sold at Farmer’s Markets with her co-owner husband Ken, and soon at their wild mushroom specialty store in Petoskey, Michigan, which opens this summer.

Muscoda Banner

Muscoda, Wisconsin – May 17th – 18th –  Morel Mushroom Festival

The Musconda, Wisconsin morel festival, in it’s 32nd 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 east 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. Last year poor weather put the entire festival in doubt, but at the last minute local hunters came in from the woods with enough morels that the Hall was able to sell hundreds of one pound baskets fresh from the hunt. r_wildMorel-21web

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

Since it’s Morel time, it’s time to readdress what’s edible and what isn’t, and how we refer to mushrooms. This piece addresses the usage of common names, especially the two mushrooms that often fruit while morels are fruiting – The Verpa sp. and the Gyromitra sp. Click to view.