One More Attempt

 

Mushroom table

Mushroom table.

 

by Brady Raymond

The weather has been cool the last week and subsequently, my mind still thinks about mushrooms.  Around the house, I’ve noticed a couple things fruiting, some Coprinellus in the garden woodchips and some Agaricus in the duff off the side of the road.  These are farmland mushrooms though, domesticated in a sense, I wanted things more wild, mycorrhizal and Ascomycete in nature.  I still want Morels.

Once again, the family and I set out to try our luck on another weekend mushrooming romp.  What would we find and would we even find anything?  We figured we’d snag a couple Morels, enough to hopefully make it worth firing up the dehydrator and adding a little more to our reserves.

Clustered Morels

I kept wondering if each Morel was my last for the season.

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Do You Morel?

2019 MDay Morel Morel in hand

Most of the Morels I was finding were fresh and of good size.  This one being on the larger end.

by Brady Raymond

We started high, around 4000ft. and that is where we stumbled across the first few Morels of the day, just off the trail among the grass and leaves.  They were still young and fresh.  I wondered if maybe this was the last hoorah and worried that it might just be the tail end of the season, I prayed to the Mushroom Gods, that they lead me to nature’s bounty and deliver me from my fungal hunger, a hunger that has been gnawing deep inside after the long winter, with no dried reserves of the fungus left.

Do you Morel?  I Moreled my butt off Saturday, well as much as I could with two young children and a geriatric dog.  The rain seemed to scare off a lot of folks over the holiday weekend but many, including myself, were gallivanting around eastern Cascade forests in search of one of the most delectable treasures nature has to offer, the Morel.  It is also in my opinion, the best mushroom, and one worth bragging about, even if just a little bit.

Now there are some who would argue my assessment of this, finding Porcini to be the best of the west, the springtime variant of the Cep being superior to what the fall has to offer.  Yet, others will proclaim Matsutake or Lobsters to be their mushroom of choice. But I will always adore the spongy fungi known as the Morel.

Pits, pores, veins or gills, whatever your fancy, you have to make the most of it when the getting is good.  Right now is the time for Morels here in Central Washington, so get out there, they won’t last long.

2019 Mday Morel

First Morel of the day.

As the weather warmed this spring and the snow melted things seemed right on track, then it got hot and the landscape dried out.  Not the best recipe for a banner Morel year.  My season seemed like it was going to stall with an all-time low of only two Morels.  But then it happened, the weather cooled and the rains rolled in, soaking the mountains over the last week.

There was ample moisture but I was worried the temperatures were just too low, I still had hope though.  The Morels took to this second spring and erupted from the soil and a couple pounds of which I was lucky enough to find.  I cradled in my hands the first Morel of the day and rejoiced in its splendor.  This is Morel hunting in Washington, and I’m living right now.  Are You?

Usually when we’re hunting in the spring things are dry, at least on the surface, they are downright soggy this year.  It is certainly annoying to be wet, although the Morels really seemed to pop in the moisture-laden landscape.  My eyes scanned the ground and with little strain and I spotted one after another and yet another.

2019 Mday stream

My first truly wet Morel hunt in Washington.  It seemed more like fall than spring weather wise.

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Snakes!

 

Crotalus viridis 2

Crotalus viridis oreganus, the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake

by Brady Raymond

Rattlesnake 

Yes, snakes.  “isn’t this a mushroom blog?” Yeah, it’s a mushroom blog but Deviating From The Norm can be a good thing once and awhile especially when you find yourself in drier regions with few mushrooms around.  Snakes have certainly been on my mind lately and I hope they will be on your mind too this spring.  I grew up in Michigan, (southern lower peninsula) and every summer I would catch snakes, almost exclusively Garter Snakes, but I did see a few Water Snakes, Racers, and Hog-Nosed Snakes.  Once I even found a small Milk Snake.  I was young but I remember being extremely excited, they are such beautiful snake and rare in at least my experience.  My dream snake, however, was always Rattlesnakes.  I had dreams of the South, more specifically the Southwest.  The desert seemed so exotic compared to my Midwestern home and that is where as a youngster, I imagined all the Rattlers were.

Ironically, there are Rattlesnakes in Michigan.  My Grandfather and other old-timers I knew would talk of the little buggers being under piles of hay around the farm and near to swamps, which is what Michigan mostly was a century ago.  The Rattlers found in Michigan are the Massasauga Rattlesnakes and I have only seen the shed skin of one brought to school by a classmate.  I imagine they were mostly wiped out by the farmers as more land was converted to agriculture and then to housing.  If there are any in Michigan now, they are most likely confined to the thickets, marshes and swamps where folks rarely venture.

I’ve spent some time down in the Southeast and Southwest too, yet I have never stumbled across a Rattlesnake, and trust me when I say I was looking for them.  I’ve turned over plenty of rocks and logs in my day (always turn them back the way you found them) but I was never lucky enough to spot one of these beauties, until now.

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Morel Count, I’m at two

Salixland Morel 2

My second Morel of the year.  At this rate I expect to find five or six total this season.

By Brady Raymond

Things were looking good at the end of winter, sufficient snowpack, and some late winter rain but then a dry spell.  Over here, east of the Cascades the last couple of weeks have been warm and dry.  Dry enough ironically to put a damper on my mushrooming mood. Today, however, the rains did come and it looks like they will extend into next week. I got myself a bit of a good omen and stumbled across another Morel only a few feet away from where I had found my first Morel of the year.  I snapped off a few shots then decided to snoop around a bit and see if I could spot a few more.

As I circled around some brush I saw a yellow laser streak in front of me across the damp ground. My mushrooming focus now tuned into snake vision, I reassessed my naturing priorities and the hunt for the serpent was on.  The snake, small, only a youngster really, caught cover under the corner of a large concrete chunk.  I thought I had lost it but with a little gentle prodding and the snake emerged from its shelter.  I captured it and after a few seconds of squirming and discharging a foul-smelling musk, it decided I wasn’t a threat and calmed down.  I was deep in shade and as if on cue, a gust of wind blew on the canopy of Willow above, allowing the evening rays of the Sun to penetrate down to the snake in my hand.  Lighting went from bad to good in an instant, I took advantage of the situation and snapped the photo below.  Look for an article about my adventures snaking to follow this story soon.

Garter Snake 5

Newborn Valley Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis fitchi.  Garter Snakes give “birth” to live young.

My second Morel of the year and an encounter with the beautiful Valley Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis fitchi left me giddy and with a touch of the fuzzies.  Then I remembered spotting some mushrooms the day before, just up the trail on the exposed roots of a wind-toppled Willow tree. I had to bushwhack my way through standing dead to reach the specimens, which from across the creek looked to be Coprinellus micaceus, and upon closer inspection that is the name I gave them.

It was kind of a difficult shot, which had me lying prone on a mat of sticks and twigs and below that was a black soupy muck.  If I applied too much pressure to a knee or elbow seepage of this muck into my clothing was inevitable.  The image isn’t a wall hanger but it is good enough as evidence that this species occurs both on my property and on Willow.  I haven’t identified anything down to species but so far I’ve spotted Agaricus, Pholiota, Psathyrella, Galerina, Xylaria, Morchella, and fairy rings in my lawn, evidence left presumably by Marasmius.

Coprinellus micaceus SL

Coprinellus micaceus, or at least that’s what I’m calling it.  DNA studies suggest however-blah, blah, blah.

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It’s Morel Season

1st Salixland Morel 2019

First Morel of the year, in my own backyard!

by Brady Raymond

I had already been out on one walk for the day, doing a little birding, trying to figure out a few plants and thinking about all the work that needs to get done on the trails for summer.  I came inside to get some water and like always my Jack Russell was there to greet me, wagging his nub of a tail in a playful puppy kind of way despite his twelve years of age.  I could tell he needed a walk so I decided to head out again.  Just a quick spin around the compound.  Unbeknownst to me that my first Morel of the year was only a few short minutes away from being found.

As I crossed the creek into “Salixland” my senses focused in on the surroundings.  Truth be told, I was thinking more about seeing some Warblers, maybe even a few new ones to add to my home bird list.  We’ve had Yellow-Rumped Warblers all over the place lately and I think there have been a few other species of birds among them but I never seem to have my binoculars on me when I really need them.  As my brain processed these thoughts I passed through the first stand of Willow trees and headed out through the Reed Canary Grass to a second stand of Willows a little further down the trail.

As I entered the woods my eyes adjusted to the lower light, I throttled down my pace a bit to optimal birding speed and continued on.  I glanced downward to watch my step and what would you know, right in front of me just ten feet away stood my first Morel of the 2019 season and my first Morel at our new home.  Surprised, I said aloud “There’s a Morel” then a giddy grin stretched across my face and a fuzzy feeling engulfed the whole of my body.

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Hunting Mushrooms In The Desert

Umtanum Verpa 1

Verpa bohemica, one of the so called False Morels, found in a riparian zone under Cottonwoods in the desert of Eastern (central) Washington.

by Brady Raymond

It’s that time of year to grab your packs and baskets and head out to the woods.  If you know where to look or tend to be lucky you will surely stumble across some Verpa bohemica.  On the east side of the Cascades, between 1300ft-1900ft is where I found the specimens photographed both above and at the end of the article.  I found them at two separate locations at either end of the aforementioned altitudes.  A few stood proud and tall yet some were inconspicuously protruding from beneath the twigs, leaves, and other duff which make up the forest floor.  Now this would all be great if they were Morels but alas they were False Morels, and although some people eat them, I do not count myself among them.  If you decide to eat them use a reputable field guide for your region and make sure you know how to properly prepare them.  Some folks don’t react well after ingesting Verpa bohemica, but I guess that could be said with all mushrooms.  Do your research before eating any mushroom.  When in doubt, throw it out

Over here on the East side, your search for mushrooms is most likely to succeed if you stick to riparian zones.  That is to say, areas near streams and rivers.  Once you start to see Willow and Cottonwood trees you know you are getting close to a riparian area. Learn to identify Cottonwoods as they seem to be friendly with Verpa bohemica and Morels alike.  Verpa bohemica often time precede Morels by a couple weeks and will many times overlap with them.  Although you may be fooled by the look alike at first, don’t be too upset when you realize your folly.  You’re on the right track, just a little early.

Home Creek

A small creek running through my property.  These Cottonwoods are still rather young but yielded Verpa.  Let’s hope the Morels will follow soon.

Another sign you are in a riparian zone is the presence of Urtica diocia also known as Stinging Nettles.  Nettles can be annoying to downright painful depending on your body chemistry but they are a plentiful, delicious and a nutritious foraged edible.  Nettles are best harvested when still young and tender.  I like to wear rubber dipped work gloves and use scissors to harvest.  I collect them in a paper grocery bag as long as it’s not to wet out.  I like the paper bags because they fold up nicely in my pack and aren’t much in the way before I use them.

When dried or cooked the stinging hairs of the Nettle are rendered impotent.  They can be used for tea, or to make pesto, as a topping for pizza, or whatever else you can think of.  It’s a good substitute for spinach (cooked), yet has a vibe and flavor that I find unique, it tastes like springtime.  There are plenty of resources online for those that are curious about recipes and their nutritional value.

Home Nettles

I don’t have to go far for Nettles, these are right out my back door.  Chances are high that you the reader doesn’t have to go far either, as they grow throughout the state where the soil stays a bit wetter, usually in riparian zones.

Robins Nest

I had to work fast to get this snapshot, Mamma Robin wasn’t too happy.  Riparian zones are the lifeblood of the dry habitats on the Eastern slopes of the Cascades.  Providing water, food and much-needed shade for a whole host of animals, especially birds.

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Is It Really Over?

Noah 2018 Morels

by Brady Raymond

I keep reminding myself that things are cyclical, not necessarily circular but, more likely some form of a distorted oval.  Yes, the seasons make their rounds but, they do it differently from year to year.  Some seasons, bucket loads of mushrooms are brought in by almost anyone that glances way of suitable habitat and yet other years you scratch by the best you can.  All of this is overlaid on a 3-D geography interacting with weather systems both worldly and cosmic.

Why are some year’s seasons stellar while others kind of, well, meh?  I like to think it is everything else in life, but it is likely that my own distractions shielded the mushrooms from my lustful gaze.  Maybe my brain wasn’t fully tuned into them this year, maybe I need to find new spots altogether, maybe the last Morel to have ever existed has been picked, put into a basket and taken home to be eaten by some newbie undeserving of such a tasty forest treat.  Oh, the horror if that were to be true.  I did, however, find enough this year to feed well upon, and I am thankful for all that nature has provided me, yet I still I want more, more from a season that seems to be breaking fast.

Morels Eagle Creek 2018

It’s not much to look at but, they are all mine, so at least there is that.

 

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Morel Hunting In Washington

Mt. 1

by Brady Raymond

What will be the outcome for the “Spring 2018 Washington Mushroom Season?”  Only the future knows.  However, I know that I’m finding Morels at various elevations.  I also know that I’m loving every second of it.  I worry a little that the weather is going to get too hot too quick and before we know it the season will be over.  I cast these thoughts aside though, and I focus on the task at hand, which is quite simple, “To find as many Morels as I can.”

So far, the pickings have been a little slim for me, but what I have found has been thoroughly enjoyed.  I’ve seen a few other folks while out and only one looked to have a bag with very much in it, so I don’t think I’m doing too bad.  The two times I have been out this season We’ve collected enough to feed three for both breakfast and dinner.  These are meager pickings comparatively speaking but, one has to be thankful for anything Mother Nature is willing to offer up.

2018 Morel Breakfast

Even the simplest of meals is awesome cooked over campfire coals, especially breakfast.

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Winter Into Spring

 

Hyphloma?

If you want to learn about mushrooms gather round for Brian’s table tours at PSMS field trips.

by Brady Raymond

Morels are here, and that means it’s time to gear up and head out.  I have reports of landscape Morels being found in the Puget Sound lowlands and as warmer weather moves in we can start moving up into the mountains.  Landscape Morels are good but mountain Morels are better and probably cleaner too.  Make sure if you find landscape Morels to be discerning when picking them for the table.  Many urban landscapes are fouled with pesticides and other harmful contaminants, caution is urged when collecting near human populations.  If you are lucky enough to spot some locale landscape Morels count it as a good omen for the rest of the season.

Spring also means the beginning of the 2018 PSMS field trip season.  If you’ve been on field trips in the past you probably already know that it is one of the best ways to learn about mushrooms and if you haven’t been on a field trip let me reiterate, it is one of the best ways to learn about mushrooms.  There is no substitute for getting out in the woods and finding mushrooms first hand, taking in all of the peripheral clues and of course having access to one of PSMS’s most valuable resources, Brian Luther.

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Memorial Day Weekend

 

IMG_3395.2

When you find a bunch of Morels in a small area make sure to mark it on your GPS.  Erin and I have some reliable patches that seem to produce each year.

 

by Brady Raymond

How do you thank those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country?  As folks barbecued with friends and family this past weekend or in my case mushroom hunted, I hope we all took a moment to reflect on the freedoms we have to do these things and the lives that were lost to protect those freedoms.  Since I can’t thank those who were lost in the line of duty I would like to thank those who are currently serving and those who have served in the past.  Thank you, your service does not go unnoticed by this author.

For the last five years, Erin and I have taken part in what may be the premier mushrooming foray in the Pacific Northwest, maybe even the country.  As we arrived at our destination, thoughts of the Morel season coming to a close were on our minds.  Things had been dry over the last week and as we all know “dry” is the enemy of fungi.  What would we find this weekend?  Would we find anything at all?

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