Morels in the Snow?

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This morning I awoke to snow. Large flakes falling heavy on an April morning. My 1st thought was, hmm, I have never found morels in the snow before. So I got ready, and headed over to my favorite morel spot (the same one I wrote about here). The path to my spot was beautiful.

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When I got to my spot, I saw that most of it was too covered in snow, but a few of the prime areas were more clear, because they were protected by a pine and some shrubs. Right away I found the one above. As I mentioned last time, I like to leave the 1st one, so I kept looking.

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It took me a while, but found one in slightly more snow.

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I picked it, and scanned the surrounding area.

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I ended up only harvesting two. Not exactly a lot of food, but as I had expected, finding morels in the snow was a magical feeling.

Thanks for reading,

Nate

 

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1st Morels of 2016.

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Yesterday my kids and I went to the creek/woods where I have my morel spots. It is earlier in the season than I usually find them, but I tend to go on the later end of the season. We went to my best spot, and I looked around while the kids played. After a couple minutes, I spotted the one pictured above. Part of being a forager is being a good caretaker, so I generally leave the 1st one, and harvest moderately after that. It took me a little while, but I found and picked the one bellow.

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After that, all I managed to find was one more little one that was just emerging from under the leaf littler. I left it to grow, but am hoping there will be more popping soon.

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While we were at the creek, I figured it would be nice to return the favor of all the wild food we pick there, so we gathered some litter on our way back to the car.

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We collected a grocery bag full in no time. We will need to go back soon, this time with full size trash bags. It is always important to try to find ways to have a reciprocal relationship with the places we gather. Some times it feels overwhelming, but every little bit makes a difference.

Thanks for reading,

Nate

A Wonderful Spring Meal.

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Tonight’s dinner was so good I just had to write about it. The ingredients were: Sausage (local, uncured), butter, spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) roots, dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) stems, Honewort (Cryptotaenia canadensis) leaves and stalks, violet (Viola spp.) leaves and stems, morel (Morchella spp.) mushrooms, and dryad’s saddle (Polyporus squamosus) mushrooms. We finished off the meal with a nice cup of sweet cicely (Osmorhiza claytoni) tea, it has a pleasant licorice after taste.

Thanks for reading,

Nate

More Morels: Spring 2013

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Just a quick post to update on my morel season, I harvested 13 more small yellow morels (Morchella spp.) today. Passed over a few to let them spread their spores.

My one spot still hasn’t produced anything, not sure if it has run it’s course, or if it is just a little later than the others. Oh well, I have found more this year than any previous ones.

This afternoon I will head back to the woods to gather some violets (Viola spp.), honewort (Cryptotaenia canadensis), and sweet cicely (Osmorhiza spp.)

Nate

Morels and Dryad’s Saddles: mushroom hunting in spring 2013.

So this past week turned out to be a pretty good one for mushroom hunting as well as foraging.

In terms of plants, I gathered a lot of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) to dry for future use, some wood nettle (Laportea canadensis), Violet (Viola spp.), ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), broad leaf dock (Rumex obtusifolius), chickweed (Stellaria media), purple deadnettle (Lamium purpureum), and common plantain (Plantago major).

I also gathered 4 different varieties of mushrooms (3 of those varieties were different types of morels). This is my 3rd year hunting morels, if you want to read about my 1st and 2nd years check it out here and here.

If you are interested in hunting morels, Michael Kuo’s books 100 Edible Mushrooms and Morels are a good place to start. Also check out his excellent website here.

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I have been working on a plant DVD, and on Thursday morning I had just finished filming and was about to head out of the woods to go pick my son up from preschool, when I almost stepped on the morel pictured above. I was excited and a little surprised because I had never found black morels (Morchella angusticeps) before (previous years I have only ever found the small yellow variety [Morchella diminutiva]), and I was in a part of the woods that I travel on a regular basis.

It was somewhat damaged, so I decide to have a quick look around.

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A couple feet away, I found this even more damaged one.

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And then within a few more feet I found 3 more black morels in great condition.

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About 20 feet up the trail I found a few of these smaller morels, which I at first took for younger black morels. Upon further inspection they turned out to be half-free morels (Morchella punctipes). All morels should be carefully identified, but the half-free ones are the trickiest because they look a lot like one variety of verpa (Verpa bohemica). Verpas are of disputed edibility, and should not be collected.

Anyway, it was time to pick up my son, so I headed out of the woods without harvesting any.

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After picking up my son, I told him that I told him that I had a surprise for him in the woods. He asked me “is it mushrooms?” and I told him he would have to wait to see. I helped him spot the morels, and together we harvested the ones pictured above. The 4 in the middle are black morels and the 2 to either side are half-free morels.

As a side note I should say that while I take my 4 1/2 yr old son mushroom hunting with me, I don’t know anyone else kids well enough to know at what age they are ready for it. 4 1/2 is surely on the young side, but I trust him, and he knows that not only are there deadly toxic mushrooms, but that we only eat the edible ones after cleaning and cooking them at home.

On Friday we went back to the same spot with two friends and found a few more of the half-free morels but none of the black ones.

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On Saturday we got together with a couple other families to go foraging along a creek near the Susquehanna. Our primary interest was in harvesting stinging nettle, but earlier in the week I had seen a dryad’s saddle mushroom (Polyporus squamosus) growing on a log along the trail, and figured I could introduce my friends to this common mushroom.

Not only did I introduce them to dryad’s saddles, but they turned out to be even better mushroom spotters than I am.

We found them growing on several logs and one big old tree.

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They were even growing inside the tree.

Click here to see a short video of my friend gathering them from the hole in the tree.

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We ended up with about 20 medium to small caps (the large ones are often too tough to eat) to split between our 3 families. We could have had more, but decided to leave some for other people.

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On Sunday afternoon my son and I decided to go skateboarding and hang out in the woods for a little. I figured it couldn’t hurt to check one of my morel spots from last year. I wasn’t expecting to find any, because it seemed like it was still a little early for the small yellow morels, but we found a nice little handful of them. Small yellows are supposed to be the best tasting of the morels and sauteing them seemed like a good close to a great week of wild food.

Thanks for reading,
Nate

A Giant Discovery.

Photo of my son next to a giant puffball mushroom.
My son next to a giant puffball mushroom.

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, I have been preoccupied with teaching classes and experimenting with a bunch of different primitive skills.

Anyway, today my son and I went for a walk in the woods, and he spotted two giant puffball mushrooms (Calvatia gigantea). The larger of the two is pictured above. Unfortunately both of them were too old to eat. I have found other species of large puffballs before, but these were my 1st giant puffballs.

If you are interested in learning how to start identifying and harvesting mushrooms I recommend Michael Kuo’s 100 Edible Mushrooms. It covers both ID and cooking very well. I like that it starts with a few mushrooms from the store, then moves to some beginners mushrooms, then a lot of intermediate and advanced ones. He is also pretty honest about which ones don’t really taste that good.

I also recommend Theresa Marone’s Abundantly Wild. It is a great cookbook for foragers. It covers a ton of plants, and about 10 common and fairly easy to ID mushrooms.

What ever you do, don’t get the book Mushrooming Without Fear. It is terrible and somewhat dangerous.

Thanks for reading,
Nate

Hunting Morels With a Friend.

This is my second year hunting morels, if you want to read about my 1st experience, check it out here.

We moved across town last fall, so it is a longer walk to get to the woods where I like foraging. I can’t just walk across the back yard to get there, so I don’t get to check my spots as often as I would like. That being said, I have been making sure to check my morel spots from last year every couple of days. I figured with such an early spring, that they would appear several weeks earlier than last year. That did not turn out to be the case.

Today, after finishing up designing the cover for my friend Dave’s 1st solo album (I’ll plug it in a couple weeks), I asked if he would drop me off at the woods on his way home, and that if he wanted to, he could come along to check one of my morel spots.

We walked down the main path, ducked under a tangle of thorns and branches, and headed down to a little flat area, next to the creek, behind a small colony of ostrich ferns.

After looking my spot over pretty well I said “I don’t think we are going to find any today”.

Dave said “Why don’t we keep looking”

I said “I know this spot pretty well, and I don’t think there is anything here”.

I headed a little way down, picked some honewort (Cryptotaenia canadensis), and showed him some identifying characteristics.

He was in a time crunch, so we started to head out. We walked around on the gravel by the creek. As we walked past my spot, a beam of sunshine shone down through a dead branch laying some leaves, sand, and gravel right on the bank of the creek and reflected off of a beautiful little morel.

Photo of morel growing in sand and gravel next to a creek.
A morel (Morchella spp.) growing in sand and gravel next to a creek.

We looked around, found another one right next to it, and realized that I had actually knocked a tiny one over while leaving the honewort patch.

I picked one, cut it open to verify its identity, and let Dave take it home with him while I stayed to look for more. I only found one more that wasn’t in real good shape, so I picked one of the nice one’s for myself, and headed to the other morel spot nearby.

I found a decent amount at the next spot, but most of them didn’t look as nice as the ones last year. They were smaller, and even ones that were a little past their prime, were still halfway under the leaf litter. I wonder if the dryer weather this year could be responsible for that. Anyway, I picked a small handful and started to head out.

A handful of morels in the kitchen.
A handful of morels in the kitchen.

As I ducked to get back to the path, I caught my forehead on a low hanging branch. It wasn’t a bad cut, but did bleed pretty well.

After leaving the woods, I walked down a road that I figured my wife (Becca) and son would be driving home on after work. When they stopped to pick me up I said “Well, I’m bleeding from the head, but I found what I was looking for”. Becca said “Morels?”.

There was great excitement when I said yes, but a little less fanfare when I managed to burn them as I prepared diner.

I would love to hear anyone else’s morel hunting exploits,

Nate

Hand Tools Part 1: Human Hands.

I am hoping to diversify a little this year in terms of what I cover, don’t worry there will still be plenty of plant posts, but I think that covering some other areas of simple living could help put my love of plants in context for people.

I have been experimenting with some primitive skills and doing some simple woodwork, as well as preparing to learn how to hunt. I plan on writing about some of the hand tools I use, and some of the ones that I make.

This is part 1 of a series on these tools. It is a photo essay on the most basic of tools, the ones that harvest, and process most of the wild foods that I eat, and the ones that make and use the other tools.

Human Hands.

My son picking mulberries (Morus spp).
My son picking mulberries (Morus spp).
Ground Cherries (Physalis spp.)
Ground Cherries (Physalis spp.)
Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia).
Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia).
Black nightshade (Solanum ptychanthum) leaf.
Black nightshade (Solanum ptychanthum) leaf.
Wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana).
Wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana).
Common chickweed (Stellaria media).
Common chickweed (Stellaria media).
My son holding a puffball (Calvatia or Lycoperdon spp.) mushroom.
My son holding a puffball (Calvatia or Lycoperdon spp.) mushroom.

Get out and learn something.

I also hope to actually get some more book reviews done soon.

Nate

Eastern Agricultural Complex: An Eric Toensmeier Video.

This is a very informative video about Native crops from before Mexican and European crops arrived. These plants have a lot of uses and I forage the wild forms of many of them. With a vulnerable unsustainable food system like our current one, these plants may once again play an important role in feeding us in the future.

Just a quick note, this is not a how to video, some of these plants need special preparation and or harvesting knowledge before they are good to eat. For instance, when it says that black nightshade leaves and berries are good to eat, that is true but they both need to be harvested at the proper stage of growth or they could be harmful.

Eric Toensmeier is the author of Perennial Vegetables, and co-author of Edible Forest Gardens. Both of Samuel Thayer’s books cover a number of these plants, and Carrol Deppe’s book Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties has a great chapter on how to domesticate wild plants.

Nate