While the woods of the Whitefish Area have much to offer in the way of wild foods, spring mushrooming is a favorite among foragers. The most well-known and sought-after of these mushrooms? The elusive morel.
The morel has become somewhat iconic to the Minnesota woods, and often searching for and finding the fungi is as much fun as eating them. They can be a bit tricky to find (and don't count on any foragers giving up their sacred harvest spots!), but if you know what to look for and in what kind of areas, you'll have a leg up on finding morels.
Of course, it's of the utmost importance that you know exactly what you are harvesting if you plan to cook and eat foraged mushrooms. If you have any doubt over the positive identity of a mushroom, don't eat it. Do your research on identification so you can be positive. The motto of the foragers is "when in doubt, throw it out." Keep in mind that there's a false morel that has a similar appearance but is poisonous.
Morel mushrooms have just begun to be sighted in southern Minnesota in the last week or two, which means that soon they'll be popping up in the central and northern parts of the state. This website posts maps, updated weekly, that show where morels have been located in the US so far this year.
According to an article by the StarTribune, morels will often pop up on a warm day, one to two days after a rainfall, when the temperature gets around 70 degrees. They grow in the lowlands around ash and aspen, and like cleared areas. Article author Bill Marchel reports that he has the best luck finding morels where ferns and jack-in-the-pulpit grow.
The University of Minnesota says that decaying ash, poplar and elms are also solid areas to search for morels. Other places to check include south facing slopes, areas that have suffered a forest fire, or logged and otherwise disturbed areas.
When you go mushroom hunting, you'll be able to look forward to a pleasant walk in the woods. Public lands are fair game for mushroom hunting, including state parks, state forests and DNR lands. While you walk, keep an eye out for other fun sightings, such as turkeys, deer, grouse, or even antler sheds.
If you miss morel season, don't worry! Minnesota has a wide variety of edible mushrooms that grow throughout the summer and into the fall. With some research and practice you can become a foraging pro.
If you're looking for resources for mushrooming, check out the Paul Bunyan Mushroom Club. The club goes on forays (gathering expeditions) throughout the warmer months of the year to collect and identify mushrooms. It's $10 for an individual or $15 for a household to join, and then you'll receive all the info on upcoming forays and other meetings, and gain the chance to make new friends with knowledgeable foragers. Their website also has a great info page with mushrooming links and resources.
Happy hunting; keep your eyes peeled!