My mom said when she was a girl growing up on the farm in southwestern Michigan, she and her six siblings hunted Morel Mushrooms every spring. I pooh poohed that story because everyone knows morels are a gift of the gods to those who live “Up North.”
Turns out that’s a myth: Mom was right and I’m wrong. Morels are found everywhere in Michigan (or nowhere if you’re like half the thousands of folks who take to the woods in late April and May and never find a one).
In fact, one of the small handful of Morel Mushroom Festivals in the state is just 15 minutes south of Jonesville, not far from the state line. Jonesville is home to Munro House B&B and Spa and to innkeepers Mike and Lori Venturini, who told us about the event. Come stay with them if you want to hunt the elusive fungus at the 19th annual Osseo Heritage Day & Great Morel Hunt, Saturday, May 9. Besides a parade and a barbecue chicken dinner served mid day, prizes are awarded for the biggest morel and the largest harvest.
Where there are trillium, you’ll find morels. That’s another myth. The fact is that once the trillium begin to blanket the forest floor, morels are not far behind. Trillium are the mushroom’s personal forecasting system but not necessarily a tip off to their presence.
Another myth is that morels are so distinctive, it’s impossible to mistake them for poisonous species. Not so, my friends. All species of true morels (Morchella Augusticeps, Morchella Crassipes, Morchella Delisiosa and Morchella Esculenta) have cone-shaped caps, a pitted surface, a hollow stem and no break between the cap and the stem. But there are also “false” morels that masquerade as the real thing that can kill you or make you so sick you wish you were dead. It’s recommended you team up with an experienced morel hunter and use an illustrated mushroom field guide. Michiganmorels.com is a comprehensive online source of information specific to our state’s morels.
Because eating the genuine article can mean the difference between life or death, the State of Michigan requires any entity selling morels from roadside stands, at local markets and from the backs of trucks to be licensed. It’s purely a myth to believe that just because someone is selling what looks like morels, they are the real deal. Be cautious. Especially in years when the growing conditions aren’t optimal, the delicacy can fetch prices as high as $100 a pound, which can be tempting to the less trustworthy among us. If you prefer to buy your morels rather than dig for them, find a source your can trust. Stone Chalet B&B in Ann Arbor tells us imports are available locally at The Produce Station, and Michigan-grown morels will soon follow. Other select markets across the state offer them as well. Order them online at Michigan Mushroom Market.
Or let master chefs cook them for you. The highly-acclaimed Rowe Inn Restaurant, just across the street from our friends at The House on the Hill B&B in Ellsworth, will serve dinnersfrom May 13 – 17 that feature morels. The special menu is part of the 55th Annual National Morel Mushroom Festival in nearby Boyne City, May 14 – 17. As if that’s not enticement enough to come for a visit, House on the Hill encourages their guests to hunt for morels on their 53 acres of private land — and keep what they pick.
Happy morel hunting this spring! Happy B&B-ing all year long.