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Yesterday was a beautiful day for a hike.

Bottom of the Wedding Hill

In a fit of optimism, I grabbed my foraging basket as I walked out the door – the basket is backpack-shaped, with two straps so I can wear it like a backpack.  I’d been looking for morels every other day to every three days, but so far had had no luck.

Maybe Wednesday’s rain did the trick, because I found these under a large ash tree:

Morels!

People say morels like ash, maple, and apple trees to grow near, but I’ve found almost all of mine under ash.  Good-size ash trees, too.  I did find one solitary morel once under  a hemlock tree, and a small patch under a maple tree, but every other patch has been near a huge ash tree or in an ash grove.

Here’s the ash I found the above morels under, with my foraging basket next to it for scale. The basket is about a foot wide at the base.

According to a forager contact of mine, who is much more experienced than I am, morels like ground that’s been disturbed.  He often follows logging operations; an area that’s logged one year may sprout a lot of morels the following year.  The mushrooms I found are at the edge of a fenced paddock for heifers.  The heifers wear a path parallel to the edge of the field, fertilizing as they go.  The morels seem to love it.

However, poison ivy loves it, too.

Poison ivy.

Wild strawberry and wild violet also like border spaces.

Wild strawberry (and poison ivy!)

Wild violet – also edible!

Morel-hunting, like all foraging and tracking, relies on good pattern recognition.  You can’t visually examine every single object in the forest, but you can scan your surroundings, looking for patterns.  This is how I identify trees, find wild edibles, find and distinguish animal tracks.

Can you find the morels in this picture?  (Look for the wrinkled, “brainy” pattern.)

Morels in leaf litter.

Here they are!

I got about a pound of morels yesterday; tomorrow I plan on hitting an ash grove which tends to have greater numbers of morels, though smaller in size. Then, we cook!

Before I went home with my loot I had to take a picture of the bigtooth aspen flowers and leaves, which are among the latest (with ash, locust, and basswood) to unfurl. They look woolly, don’t they?

Bigtooth aspen’s woolly new flowers and leaves

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