Morel Mushroom Hunting
Of all the wild edibles that grow in the spring, perhaps there’s no greater prize than a morel mushroom. Beginning to pop up around mid-April for around a month, these treasures resemble sponges in shades of color from black to yellow to white. They are a favorite among locals, that is, if you can find them. Though the season is winding down this year, we spoke with Highland County resident, Trey Williams. He humbly declined the title of a “local expert” on the subject of morel mushrooms, but he has been searching for them successfully in the area for many years.
Trey says, “Places I find most of mine are usually apple trees, ash trees, usually, like, at the edge of a sod and wooded area. Some people find them underneath pine trees, sycamore. I haven’t really found that many there, but the places I go to, the, the apples and the ash trees are the most common places. There are people who find ‘em underneath poplar trees. Poplar trees is another good place, and I’ve gone to places where there is poplar trees and never found a one, so I just don’t know what the rhyme or reason or how they come up, because, usually, the places I go, I can go to the same trees, they produce, pretty much year after year, to where there’s ten foot over here, there’s another ash tree that never produces a mushroom. I’ve found abundance underneath one tree, probably, like close to a five gallon bucket, and then I’ve walked for a long time just to find two or three, so it’s kinda hit and miss on where you do find ‘em and how plentiful they are when you do find the right spot.
Sometimes the morels show up in interesting places. “I have noticed that one place, there had been some timber cut, some select cutting,” continues Trey. “And the following year, I don’t know if the sun had penetrated more in to that area, but, I mean, the mushrooms blew up. They was very abundant underneath the ash trees at that point. I’ve found ‘em in mulch piles, up here along First and Citizens Bank when they freshly mulch. In the spring, you can around there and find them there, and years ago, the town of Monterey mulched beside the steps going up to Church Hill, and for about five years, you could go in that mulch, that freshly bedded mulch, and in the spring pick your mushrooms.”
Trey says he and his family use the mushrooms in omelettes, quiche, homemade pizza and sometimes mixed with another wild edible, ramps. Overall, what is the underlying appeal and lure of the morel mushroom? Trey explains, “I think it’s just gettin’ out in the early spring. Everything’s been cooped up all winter, got reason to get out in the woods, get some exercise. As far as the mushrooms, I probably give fifty percent of mine away. I’d just rather find ‘em, get out and look for ‘em, and hunt ‘em rather than eat ‘em. You know, I get kind of tired of ‘em quick. Of course, now that Colton, my son, he’s at the age, he likes to go with me. I like taking him, and I’m fortunate enough to have family members and people that I work for allow me to go, and that are in some of the prime spots, so I am appreciative of that.”
Prime morel mushroom season may be over, but Trey said that as recently as last week, he saw a post on social media from another local resident with a morel growing in their driveway.