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Valley Hunter

April 24, 2011

REDNECK QUAKER: Examining morel issues with passionate hunters

TERRE HAUTE — Here I sit with Alan Reed at Starbucks Coffee about to figure out how and where mushrooms grow.

I will be talking to several different people on the subject, and I don’t think anyone truly knows how mushrooms grow or they would be millionaires if they could grow them.

Reed is a nice, thoughtful man that you can enjoy visiting with for hours on end. He’s a genuine person that puts in thought to everything he says.

So let’s get started. Which came first the chicken or the egg?

Does a mushroom re-seed itself or does it start from a newly generated spore or fungus? Of course, in coming writings we will explore the best spots to find them.

Reed has thoughts along with well-kept documentation from his own experiences.

In 2010, he discovered 150 morels of different varieties. In 2009, he counted 505, including a harvest of 300 gray and whites on April 15. In 2008, he found about 200; in 2007, about 380; and in 2006, about 310.

Reed feels that they recreate themselves by releasing spores, which he says you can shake a large one and see them fall to the ground.

A natural way they would do so is by wind or rain triggering them to release. So Reed recommends when you pick them to shake, bump or rub them to replant the spores where they are picked. This could improve the odds of reproduction due to it being the original environment.

Reed also thinks there are thousands of spores on one mushroom, so let’s think about what type of sack to carry them in. Reed made his own sack with open mesh material and a draw string at the top that he purchased at a local cloth store.

He is so dedicated to mushroom hunting that he looks for ways to make it better, similar to a deer hunter planting food plots.

To understand how something originates and exists allows you to better support its existence.

Reed gets all upset to see someone in the woods with a plastic bag. He sees it as someone killing his sport because people don’t understand the replanting concept.

How does a mushroom originate? Is it due to soil, vegetation, certain types of trees, a certain fungus or mold?

Reed feels different trees produce different types of mushrooms: there’s the yellow morel, black morel, gray morel and the gooesnecks or button-tops. Pine trees produce black morels, although yellow and gray morels are not particular for they like dead elm trees with bark coming off of them.

It seems the hillsides facing North with adequate sun produce well — light is good. Reed has researched the theory of snow cover and says it doesn’t matter. They get moisture and minerals from other sources.

How fast do morels grow? Many people claim they grow over night or let’s just say in a 12- to 24-hour period of time, night or day.

The stick theory works pretty well for a lot of people by simply sticking a stick in the ground next to the mushroom to gauge the growth the next day or two. A can placed over the top presents a more dark period of time that some folks think helps.

Hold on, I’ve got another couple sitting down beside us to enjoy a cup of coffee so let’s see what their ideas are on mushrooms.

I didn’t realize who they were until Reed ask if they were in real estate, and boy, are they in real estate. Burt and Patty Williams are as fine of people as you would ever want to meet.

They sold their real estate company, but they are not retired and still very active in the field. They live in Sullivan County, and have a very nice, isolated home, so they have their own private mushroom hunting area.

Burt grinned and said if they can’t find any they go to the Mansfield mushroom festival.

On April 15 one year, one of the best finds they had was yellow morels.

Patty said to prepare them, she soaks them in salt water, cuts them in half and places them in salt water. Then she places them on a cookie sheet, then bags the ones left over for the freezer so they can have a treat on Christmas morning.

Reed stresses to use a mesh bag. For the effort it takes, it may make the difference. His preparation is to soak them in water and he doesn’t worry about the little critters in them. He says they cook up to. After soaking in water, cut them in half, cover them with egg and flour, then cook. He then hopes there is some left after cooking them. There has only been two times he’s had any left to freeze.

Thanks Alan for a great afternoon of coffee and mushrooms.

If you don’t take to heart what you love the most, it will be gone forever.

Kenny Bayless can be reached by e-mail at kwbayless@aol.com.

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