A Great Blue Heron Guide to Mushroom Hunting
Walk quietly, and carry . . . nothing!
No, herons don’t hunt for mushrooms. But if they did, they would probably be good at it. Patience, diligence, and keen observation are all critical. So is outsmarting the crafty mushrooms.
Yes, morel mushroom season is getting close! We’ll cover some suggestions on when and where to look later in the article, but first we’ll cover one of the most important rules of mushroom hunting… You can’t let the mushrooms know you’re looking for them! What that means is you can’t take a bag or a basket or any other container. The mushrooms will know it is there, and what you’re up to.
So what do you do?
Wear a hat. A baseball cap is probably best. If you happen to find a few mushrooms, take off your hat and carry them in it.
Before You Go
Now that you have your hat on, walk softly and with patience, diligence, a keen eye, and love for nature, you’ll be finding those precious mushrooms in no time. Mushrooms love to hide using their natural camouflage, which is why foraging is mainly for those with patience and eagerness. With morel season just around the corner, we’ve come up with some suggestions on where to look, how to safely forage what you find, and how to turn your glorious finds into glorious meals.
Foraging doesn’t require any fancy gear, but at the bare minimum, the Great Blue Heron crew recommends you have sturdy shoes (you’ll be delving deep into some greenery, boots are always a good idea), a knife, and a dependable reference guide. If you don’t believe the rule at the start of this article (at your peril) you can take a basket or other container.
The Key to Finding Morels
Morels don’t look quite like any other mushroom, right? Wrong! Morels have a nasty cousin who looks very similar, however it’s not kind to the body. Instead of a tasty meal, you’ll end your evening with a stomach ache. Great Blue Heron Outdoors carries all sorts of mushroom guides, from quick reference one’s that fit in your pocket, to books that cover almost every mushroom variety you can find in the midwest. Plus, if you find some unfamiliar shrooms on your hunt for the morels, you’ll probably want to know if you’re missing out on something delicious.
The first thing you’ll want to know about finding morels is the obvious; where they grow. Most mushrooms grow in similar conditions, in nature with dark hiding places. Morels often grow on the edges of forests or wooded areas, primarily around oak, elm, ash, and aspen trees. You’ll want to step off the path and look for areas with no visible foot traffic. Mushrooms love to hide under vegetation, and the morel is no different.
Morels aren’t a huge fan of very wet conditions, so avoid looking by stream beds or by any lakes or rivers, however they love to be about ten yards or so away from them! The humidity and condensation from the river promotes mushroom growth, they just don’t prefer soggy soil. One thing to remember is that the mushroom is a resilient creature and oftentimes will grow where you’d expect nothing to grow. Under that rotting log? Yup. Along the edge of that tree on the way back to the forest? Absolutely. This is why mushroom foraging requires trust, patience, and a willingness to explore.
So, you found a mushroom! Great! Before you start harvesting mushrooms, check that handy guide we talked about. You don’t want to fill your basket only to check later and find out you have a ton of harmful mushrooms. Once you’ve confirmed what you’ve found, it’s go time. Once you have found your first morel, stay where you are. Morels, and every mushroom really, emit spores around them which create more mushrooms. If you found one morel, odds are there’s more around you. Careful to not disturb the wonderful nature around you, but it might be worth lifting up that tree branch just to check. You will find that once you have found one, your keen eye is tuned to spot more! Remember, nature is precious and delicate. Don’t flip rocks, don’t break branches, don’t dig random holes. Leave things as you found them. Sustainability is extremely important to preserving the art of foraging.
How to Cook Your Morels
Now to the fun part. What to do with those pretty mushrooms! Firstly, give them a quick rinse. Wash any soil off, and any trace of pests. Give them a good once over to make sure you’re not eating anything undesirable. Great Blue Heron Outdoors has a plethora of cook books to guide you on how to prepare your mushrooms, but we’ll give you a sneak peek.
Our personal favorite way to eat morels is sautéed with a big of butter and sage, and then thrown into a delicate pasta dish. This pairs well with meats like pancetta, crispy bacon, or guanciale. The saltiness of the cured meats combined with the delicateness of the mushroom is an amazing experience. Something to keep in mind is morels don’t always get along with alcohol, so it’s best to have a dry dinner with your newly foraged goodies.
Overall, mushroom foraging is the perfect way to spend your day in the woods, and walk out with something incredible. While herons don’t hunt for mushrooms, the Great Blue Heron community does!
Remember; walk softly and forage kindly.