Low in calories and high in nutrient content and flavor, the morel beckons many a visitor to our area during the month of May. A wild and wonderful delicacy, Crawford County has a large amount of state and federal property which may be hunted at will.
To the south of Grayling are the hills near Military Rd., which have Maple ridges and Poplar cutoffs. Going west are Maple stands off of Sunset Trail south, and Blue Lake Road north. North of Grayling are Maple Forest, Wards Orchard, and Cameron Bridge Road. All of these areas produce black morels. County map books are available at local stores which will help in locating county roads. Plat books are also helpful in distinguishing between state land and private property. After finding morels, record the location in a log book for the next time, because morels grow consistently in the same spots. To insure that morels will return pick them as close to the bottom of the stem as possible and be sure to leave the roots. This will insure growth for next year.
Black morels come first with the onset of the spring rains and warm weather, generally in May. The earliest morels appear on the southeast side of hills in Maple forests. They usually are located in the top third of the hillside. This area seems to get the most sun early in the spring. As the season goes on they can be found lower on the hill and in to the flats surrounding the hill. Whites, yellows, or tans come much closer to Memorial Day weekend. A good indicator that the growing season approaches is the trillium starting to bloom.
Morels can also be found in older cut off areas, hardwood forests, birch clusters, pines and some wetland areas. The soil must be damp for growth. If the temperature of the air and soil is correct they could pop-up during the day. Morels manage to conceal themselves in the wide open spaces. Always work slowly up the hills and look ahead into the leaves. Search moss patches and especially on and around the mounds without scraping away the leaves or the soil can be exposed and dry out. When working the Aspen stands, look closely at the base of the trees, in and around dead stumps, logs and in clumps of grass. Parked cars along the side of the road could be a good indication of where mushrooms are being found. Use a flat container for collecting; plastic bags won’t prevent breakage, and they also cause the mushroom to sweat and disintegrate rapidly.
White morels are larger than blacks with some reaching twelve inches in length, and can be harder to find. False morels are also growing, and are not edible. The false morel’s hoods are NOT attached to the stem, like the real morels. Take caution when picking. Morels vary in size from 2 to 6 inches tall, in creamy tan, or shades of brown & black and are hollow, with a cone-shaped head and connected at the base to the hollow neck. The head has a pitted surface. Some species have ridges and there is a difference in the size and shape of the pits and membranes. Most will grow from the soil through a leaf mat. Plan to hunt with an experienced “mushroomer” the first time out to alleviate the possibility of error.