Featured mushroom for April and May (2009)...
The tasty morel.
Morels are the featured mushroom for April and May. The black morels will begin to appear in late April and followed by the half-free morels then the yellow morels which can grow through the end of May. This group of three species of morel brings thousands of mushroom hunters to Michigan’s North woods every spring. There are annual Mushroom festivals in Michigan in Mesick, in Boyne City, in Grayling, in Harrison, and in Lewiston. These festivals bring hundreds of tourists to the North woods where they go on hunts to compete in several classes (e.g., residents, experienced hunters, or beginners) for the most mushrooms found in a specific time period. Mushroom art and kitsch are sold at numerous booths together with mushrooms.
The morels are prized for their culinary uses. Morels are one of the groups of mushrooms that are found throughout the Northern hemisphere in temperate zones. Although morels are prized in French cuisine, there are mushroom recipes available from the U.S. and Canada, Europe, China, India (found in the mountainous regions of India), and probably other countries.
Morchella the genus of the true morels are related to the cup fungi some of which fruit just before and during the morel season. The morels all have hollow bodies, the heads consist of pits and ridges having the appearance of a honeycomb and the stalks are attached to the bottom of the heads with the exception of the half-free morels whose stalk is attached halfway up the head. The Verpa bohemica is similar to the half-free morel but the stalk attachment is at the top of the head.
The three species of morels are the yellow or white morels (Morchella escullenta), the black morel (Morchella angusticeps), and the half free morel (Morchella semilibera). The black morels which are the first morel to appear in the spring in Michigan range in color from light tan when young to very dark brown when mature; the ridges of the blacks often appear to go linearly from the top of the head to the bottom. The half-free morels fruit next. Here the most notable features are the stalk attached halfway up the head and the smallness of the head in comparison to the stalk. Finally the yellows appear. At first the yellow morels have gray or grayish white colored caps (in some books called Morchella delicioso) which change to the characteristic yellow as the spores mature. The ridges on the yellow morels do not appear as linear as those of the black morels.
Morels grow throughout the U.S. wherever the proper climatic conditions occur. Many unusual common names have sprung up in parts of the country. Morels have been called dryland fishes, hickory chickens, merkels (or miracles, based on a folk story of how a mountain family was saved from starvation by eating morels).
The habitats where these mushrooms are found include young poplar (aspen) forests and ash woods for the black morels, most hardwood forests for the half-free morels and dead and dying elm trees, old apple orchards, ash woods, tulip trees aka tulip poplar trees, white oaks and wild cherry trees for the yellow morels.