Dr. Fungus Lectures Class On The
Morals and Lifestyles Of Morels

Posted 4/11/04


Dr. Mike Tansey is the fungus man at Indiana University.  He teaches mycology at Jordan Hall and has been at IU since 1971, and there is little doubt he is well “grounded” in all aspects of mushroom life.

It should have come as no surprise that Tansey lets his students in on Indiana morel hunting this time of year.  However, the message he delivers to his class every year on April Fool’s Day goes beyond the classroom.  It delves into the social and moral fiber of every dedicated hunter of the wonderful sponge mushroom.  He sent me this copy of his lecture in hopes of educating all neophyte ‘shroom hunters:

“Morels are fruiting now in the Bloomington area, but the best hunting will start this weekend and last all month.  Griffy Lake is okay, but Brown County State Park, northeast of the fire tower at the headquarters, has never failed me...ever.  Walk to the northeast.  If you are ambitious, when you get to the stone shelter house, go downhill to your left and on and on for a long way.  Walk very slowly, and don't look more than 2 meters from your feet for the first 2 weeks of April...for the Black Morel.  After that, the Yellow Morel is much easier to find, so you can look out to 4 meters from your feet.  Don't hunt morels on Campus.  They belong to me.  Actually, there are several nice patches on Campus.

”When you hunt morels, take along a chain saw.  Start it up and leave it running, but set it down on the ground.  The mushrooms think you are just cutting wood, and don't bother to hide. When you spot the first one, sneak up on it, tap it with your finger and yell, "Tag, you're it!"  This startles the mushroom and it then leads you to another one that IT tags.  Grab them both, before they realize they have been tricked.

”Morels occur in groups.  Try to catch the lead mushroom first.  The rest will panic and this makes them easier to catch.  Save the biggest and best shaped mushroom you find, dry it, and keep it for use as a Christmas tree.  Take it down after New Year's Day, chop it up, and burn it in the fireplace to keep you warm throughout January.  Eat the smaller ones:  Slice one in half and eat part as your breakfast, the rest as your supper.  Speaking of size: The largest one I found last season had a shadow that weighed 4 pounds.  It was so big that I couldn't find a camera big enough to photograph it.

”Don't let “morelitis”...loss of hearing when asked exactly where you found your morels...bother you.  We all get it.  Either that, or we have to lie, as in the old saying, "Early to bed/ Early to rise/ Hunt all day/ Then tell lies."  I wouldn't lie to you, of course.  But folks do look at me sort of funny when I tell them about mushrooms being so abundant that some trails are impassable.  At least they leave me alone when I go hunting.  They say I'm a crazy fool with a knife.  But sometimes when I hunt by myself I don't get to bring many back. It's not because I don't find them.  It's our Hoosier tradition that morels small enough to lift and carry are too small to keep and eat. We can pick them, but we have to put them back...The aren't keepers.

”We need to be sensible about mushrooms, not like a fellow I know who cooked such delicious morel dishes that he never married. He didn't want to share his mushrooms with a wife. That doesn't make any sense. Why would anyone think he had to share morels with a spouse?

”Some folks say you can train a dog to hunt mushroom.  That's true, and I did it.  But he got so rich from selling the morels he found that he ran away to the city, bought a big house, and never hunted mushrooms again.  So I think it's a waste of time to train a dog.

”I'm often asked two questions: where can you find morels, and how can you grow your own?  The answer to the first gives the answer to the second: Morels are most often found near dead elm trees.  So, to grow your own morels, plant dead elm trees.

”In response to the frequently asked and deeply philosophical question, "If a morel discharges its spores in the woods, and there is no one there to hear it, is there a sound?"...Yes, morels can make an audible hissing sound if many of the spore-producing cells shoot out their spores at the same time.

”If you meet a successful morel hunters in the woods, explain to them that you are visiting from the East Coast, have only seen photos of morels, and are trying to find some some fresh morels for your elderly grandfather who is dying in a local hospital and wants one final meal of fresh morels.  Ask the hunters to tell you how to find a patch.

”Some additional collecting advice: Carry work gloves to avoid getting calluses from picking morels all day.  Buy 20 large grocery bags for a total of only a dollar at the supermarket...That's usually enough for carrying back a good day's pickings.

”When you do find some morels, don't pick them right away.  You tell me exactly where they are growing, and I'll check them out and tell you if they're okay to eat. Trust me.

Enjoy the hunt.  Life is good, and morels are a bonus. Happy April 1st!”

Thanks to the professor for sharing his insight with us and his students.

Here are websites that report the fruitings of morels:



Copyright. 2004 through 2009. Donald Lee Jordan

Inverness Florid., Bloomington, Indiana.

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