Thursday, February 2, 2023

Recreation, food found in morel mushroom picking

April 26, 2001

Kurt Lamour is a morel mushroom maniac.

To him, April is a time to get outdoors and forage through the Michigan foliage to find some tasty fungi.

“Mushroom-picking is a tradition that has been passed down in my family from generation to generation,” said Lamour, a botany and plant pathology graduate student. “And it’s a really good excuse to go tromp out in the woods and see a lot of nature.”

The more it rains in April, the more morel mushrooms will grow, said Gerry Adams, an MSU professor of botany and plant pathology.

“This particular mushroom is one of the only ones that fruits in the spring,” he said. “Most mushrooms fruit in the fall.”

There are two key factors involved in morel-picking, Adams said. One is the amount of spring rain and the other is finding the right place to pick.

“The best place to find morels is in a mixed forest, with a lot of hardwoods,” he said.

Heather Hallen, an MSU botany and plant pathology graduate student, said although mushroom-picking is a great hobby, people should be cautious.

“Morels are among the easiest mushrooms to identify,” she said. “If people look at pictures and know what they are looking for they should be easy to find.

“But you don’t want to go out and eat whatever is on the ground.”

Mushroom hunters need to be familiar with false morels, Hallen said.

False morels are poisonous and look similar to morels, but there are some distinct differences one should look for.

Morel mushroom caps are deeply pitted while the false variety have wrinkled or smooth caps.

Real morels are also completely hollow, Adams said.

“The best way to test whether a mushroom is a false morel or not is to cut it open from top to bottom and see if it is hollow,” he said. “You could also check to see if the cap is attached just at the top; true morel caps are attached all the way down the stem.”

No matter what you pick, none of these mushrooms should be eaten raw, Hallen said.

“It’s not brain surgery, but people should have a good idea of what they are looking for,” she said. “I would recommend taking a field guide when going out mushroom-picking.”

Mushrooms are certainly abundant on campus in places such as Baker Woodlot, at the corner of Service Road and Farm Lane, and the Sanford Natural Area near Holmes Hall, Hallen said. However, no collecting is permitted on campus.

“It’s a good start to go out and identify mushrooms on campus without picking them,” she said. “Not only is it a great reason to get outdoors, but it can provide some great experience for when the time is right to collect them.”

Usually mushroomers are rather hush-hush about their picking spots, Hallen said. But she agreed to let just one secret slip out.

“There are a lot of great places to look for mushrooms around East Lansing,” she said. “Lake Lansing Park has a lot of good fungi just waiting to be picked.”

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