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Mushrooming in Michigan

A few tips you need to know

Each year as the snow slowly melts away and the rains of April bring forth the freshness of the earth, we start thinking of getting outside. Out of doors, YES, after a winter of being trapped indoors trying to keep warm we get to venture forth and brave the wild woods.

But wait, why are we here in the woods? Is it just to wander around and enjoy the beauty of God’s great creation or is there more here than just the visual?

Wait, what is that I see? It’s a mushroom and it is one of the best, a Black Morel.

As we pick our basket full of fresh mushrooms we look and check each one looking for the identifying characteristics that we use to make sure these are Morels.

Morels have differing colors of gray, black, and yellow. They’re most often distinguished by their long caps which look like honeycombs.

Morel mushrooms usually stand between 1 inch (the size that I usually find) and 4 inches tall (what everyone else finds) and are about 1 inch to 2 inches around. When you find them, be sure to pinch off the stem at ground level to keep from harming the mycelium which is what the mushroom grows from.

Many people use a “mushroom knife” (a small hook bladed knife) to harvest them which keeps the damage to a minimum.

Now there are many more edible mushrooms available in Michigan with over 2500 mushrooms in our state. However, only 60-100 are considered safe to eat and at least 50 of those 2500 species are poisonous. While some cause mild illness and/or gastric discomfort, others are deadly. Even if you do not die, you could be harmed for life by the loss of kidney function as one example.

Please be sure to obtain and use good mushroom guides. I personally use at least three when identifying a new species. I “NEVER” take someone’s word that they are safe.

Most everyone will tell you that Morels are completely safe. They are not because if undercooked or consumed with alcohol, gastric discomfort can become a problem.

Alcohol should not be consumed with any mushrooms in my opinion because of the way that they react together. Common inky caps (Coprinus armamentaria) are edible and personally I like Shaggy Manes (Coprinus comatus) quite a bit. If alcohol is consumed within approximately 72 hours after eating a mushroom containing coprine, alcohol intolerance can occur. Symptoms include flushing, dizziness, decreased blood pressure, nausea, elevated heart activity, vomiting, headache and more. These effects give rise to a common name for inky caps, Tippler’s Bane.

Another caution when harvesting wild foods is to be careful where you collect these tasty morsels. It is good to never collect along roadsides or anywhere dumping may have occurred.

Never gather from yards where pesticides or herbicides have been applied. Mushrooms in particular can grow in hazardous materials which means that they pick up those contaminates and add them to their flesh. We have all seen the cautions of eating large fish because of the toxins that they may contain well mushrooms do the same thing.

Please do not let the fear of poisoning keep you from enjoying the bounty that our great state has to offer, instead let it put forth caution and the need to study our wild foods.

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