When I was only a twinkle in my dad's eye, the Lavy family went to Northern Michigan in May, 1958. They were in search of the elusive morel, also known as a sponge mushroom. They are a delicacy in many people's opinion. When they found bags full of morels, this became a yearly trip and when I got big enough to know what was happening, I became a mushroom hunter.
In the 1970's, Dutch Elm disease devastated the American Elm population. For some reason, an elm that was dead for a few years produced morels. In those years, we would hunt in the woods mainly by looking for the next dead elm. At times we would find dozens of mushrooms around one tree. In some years we would come home with more than 3,000 in just a couple of day's hunting time. As the elm trees began to fall, mushrooms seemed to decrease in number. Since very few elms remain, we have had to adjust our hunting areas.
When we hunt now, we are looking for ash trees. Certain ash trees that are healthy are now morel producers. There a lot of variables that go into finding them, however. The ground cover is important along with soil and moisture. Temperatures are also quite important. A lot of things need to line up to make for a good mushrooming year.
A few years ago, Brent and I decided to go to Michigan and see if we could hit the jackpot. We didn't, but we found enough to have some meals of mushrooms and pork chops, and we brought a few home. In another year, Danette joined us for the trip. Then, Grandpa Lavy went north with Wayne, Lauren, Paul and me. Last year, just Grandpa and I went. So, it has come full circle. Grandpa got me hooked about fifty years ago, and now I have taken him to Wolverine, Michigan to hit the woods.
Danette, Ally, Jamie and I found 54 in a woods near our house last week. Finding them here gets you excited about finding the really big ones in Michigan. Here they were 2-3 inches in height. Up north, they can grow to 5 or 6 inches and bigger.
We have some tentative plans to go north in a few weeks. Time will tell if we will be able to take Grandpa to the north woods one more time.