Readers of the Ohio edition of Outdoor News enjoyed a longer version of tips from Walter Sturgeon, a nationally recognized author on woodland fungi and the author of Appalachian Mushrooms: A Field Guide, in an article by Jane Beathard. This post includes highlights from the piece with a publication date of April 2020.
According to Sturgeon, some mushrooms are quite edible, although they might be tough, woody, and unappetizing. And while consuming some varieties will lead to illness, few are deadly poison.
A classic example of how easily a novice could be confused is in the search for the classic morel mushroom with its distinctive honeycomb surface. Although similar in appearance, “False” morels have a similar shape, but are roundish and have a wrinkled surface – and are poisonous to humans.
For this reason, we encourage you to tag up with organizations such as the North American Mycological Association to learn more before consuming any wild fungi.
True black morels are generally the first to appear annually, with white and yellow morels soon to follow. With that season upon us, here are some tips from Sturgeon:
- Use a field guide or take a knowledgeable friend along on the hunt to help identify what is edible and what is not.
- Check the rules before venturing onto public lands such as state and national parks, wildlife areas, and forests. Outside of COVID-19 related closures at this time, some do not allow mushroom hunting.
- Never hunt on a golf course or where weed killer has been applied.
- Hunt early in the morning and within a week of a rain-storm.
- Hunt on south-facing hillsides.
- Hunt near old and dying elm trees where the bark is still peeling.
- Hunt near fruit orchards – especially apple orchards.
- Look anyplace that has been burned or where cinders are on the ground.
- Bring a bag and small sharp knife for gathering.
- Leave stems on while cutting dirt off.
- To clean your harvest, wash harvested mushrooms, but don’t soak them in water. Dry thoroughly.
- Cut mushrooms vertically and check for bugs.
- Never eat any wild-harvested mushrooms raw! All must be cooked.
Want to access a real-time map that shows morel sightings? Visit The Great Morel website for basic zip/city/county/state listings that give indicators on how the season is trending in your area.