News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 17, 2011

REDNECK QUAKER: The Theory of Mushrooms: Spores, tree roots and wood

By Kenny Bayless
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Here we sat at a Terre Haute Torpedo’s swim meet and an avid mushroom hunter sat down next to me, so “here goes” on his theories on mushrooms. Jim Mattick lives for mushroom season.

Jim thinks they start from spores, from tree roots and something from certain types of wood. A spore may be something like a seed, when the spore germinates from the right conditions, like ground temps, moisture in ground, and leaf cover has nothing to do with it. Early in the year with good sun on south slopes are best and late in the year north slopes are best. Jim has found them in deep woods to open pastures. Jim backs up Alan Reed’s theory of using an open mesh bag to carry them in so they can drop spores while being carried.

Jim stresses the dying Elm tree that is starting to slip the bark is the best. He thinks the males may produce but the females may not. The early grays can tolerate colder temps than the yellows. The times are changing for you do not find the goose necks like the past, for some people did not pick them, there were so many.

Jim’s theory on how fast they grow is they grow as fast as the conditions allow. He had hard Maple trees in his yard and he tilled the yard to make a new seed bed to plant grass seed, and the next spring he had hundreds of yellow morels, with the following year, just a few, and the next year, “not any.” He thinks a possible benefit was sap from the roots of the trees. A mushroom must have a lot of moisture content in it, for if the weather turns hot and sunny they will dry up. So it goes to stand they need a lot of moisture to grow.

Jim found the largest ones directly after a big thunder storm, so he thinks the lightning giving off an electric charge in the air or ground also has a benefit for them. Jim took a glass mason jar and placed it over a yellow and it still grew some more. He says when they start it could be minutes to hours or days for them to reach full growth.

A gentleman told Jim he watched one grow with his very own eyes and it only took a matter of minutes. Well, Jim said with a grin, he wondered if the guy was drinking a little fire water at the time. He does think they grow overnight a lot, it is fact that he left them overnight and they grew to double their size, he puts a stick next to them and when they show signs of drying up he picks them. To pinch them off at ground level is the correct way to pick them leaving the roots.

Well, Jim is rethinking the open mesh bag theory to carry them in. I think he changed his mind so it doesn’t matter.

Cut them in half, soak them in salt water to kill the little critters and it depends on how hungry he is on how long they soak. If there is any left they go into a plastic bag and are refrigerated. If soaked too long they get mushy. Hayden likes to go with dad on the woods walks and is good at spotting them ahead of dad. Jim says “Turbo” is a good mushroomer!

The coating base is flour with half butter and half canola oil with medium heat to cook. There is a fine line on how long to cook, not wanting them too mushy or over done.

Only thing better than steak and potatoes is mushrooms and bluegill filets. Is Jim a good old Redneck or what!

Jim is giving it serious thought on going north after our season is over for he hears about people finding them, filling large coolers in Michigan and Wisconsin.

So if you happen to see a good old Redneck this spring in the woods carrying a big sack of mushrooms, just say ‘hi Jim, how you doing!’