Usually, at this time of year (Mother’s Day),
we can go to our favorite mushroom woods and fill our sacks with morels
. . . What happened?
It’s a question we have been hearing a lot in
the last week or so. “What happened to the morels this year?”
I am not one to offer that this is an answerable
question by anyone--especially me. But I will say that my column item several
weeks ago--when it was occurring--was somewhere close to an answer, even
if it is not on the button.
Back in April, you will recall, we had an unusually
warm spell of about a week and plenty of rain to go with it. It created
ideal conditions for spring morels. There were some reports of mushroom
finds at that time--mostly little blacks--especially in central and southern
sectors of the state. Some wildflowers bloomed (not lilac, to my knowledge).
But the wildflowers of early species were rather sparse, the woods were
not ablaze with blooms as usual. But it still appeared that we were standing
on the threshold of a pretty decent morel season.
Being rather easy to convince that what I wanted
to occur was becoming reality as the sun moved northward, I dutifully reported
it for the army of morellers.
But things (especially the weather) changed. Instead
of wildflowers turning the woods into its usual riot of color, the wildflowers
that bloomed faded into nothingness. The other wildflowers didn’t bloom,
and the woodlands turned into the biggest bunch of blah I have ever witnessed.
There are a lot of weeds in the woods now, but I have a sneaky suspicion
that our late cold snap also did its work on the taller flowers that should
be in bloom now, but aren’t. The full story on that will show up later
as the fruits and nuts of trees and shrubs mature. Wild berries also may
be affected adversely, but I am noticing a modest crop of wild black raspberries
coming on the canes now. Wild strawberries have lost so much fallow fielding
(places to develop) that it is difficult to mention them.
It is a bit early to tell how the various hardwood
trees fared during the cold snap, but they may have lucked out in developing
blooms more slowly (later) than did many of the wildflowers. We will undoubtedly
be observing this facet and getting the opinions of others later in the
year. We also will have a short wait to see how the dewberries and blackberries
are going to do. Their bloom will tell us soon. I have noticed the Indian
strawberry (poisonous, folks say) in bloom recently, and some fruiting.
So what is going to happen with the morels now?
My last excursion in Central Indiana was so dismal that I hate to return.
But I will return--it is in my blood. And we may find some “big yallers,”
or possibly the big woods morels. But it seems one’s best advice is: Go
north, young man, maybe into Michigan, where spring breaks more slowly.
readers of this column have asked for an “instant replay” on fashioning
a shirt-pocket berry-pickin’
pail from a half-gallon milk or citrus juice container. Hard paper
containers work best. These instructions will be found on the “wild
recipes” section of this website (http://bayoubill.com).
Start by cutting off the angled top of the container.
From there the procedure can be patterned as the folding of a paper grocery
sack. It is easy. After the folds are made, a bail of strong cord may be
attached to opposite sides of the opening. Then the sides of the pail are
wrapped around the bottom for storage in a shirt pocket.
If you have trouble with the procedure, practice
it with a grocery sack. Learn how to make the folds and crease them.
The pail will be filled with quart plastic bags,
removable (sealed with twistem) when filled. Don’t ask me why a quart bag
fills a half-gallon pail. Thus, several bags can be filled with berries.
Pail ready for
(Click on image for enlarged