In 1984, the Minnesota Legislature passed a bill designating the morel the state mushroom. Gov. Rudy Perpich made it law April 18. Minnesota became the first state to have an official mushroom.
The morels are sometimes called sponge mushrooms because each resembles a piece of sponge growing on a short stalk. They are different in form from most mushrooms. Somewhat cone-shaped, a morel silhouette resembles a tiny tree with a thick trunk. They are 4 to 8 inches tall, the caps are light tan to brown and the stems white. The cap is composed of ridges and pits, but the stalk is reasonably smooth.
Morels appear in spring. I have records of morels in Minnesota from as early as late April on into mid-June. I have told people for years to look for morels after a rainfall during the blooming time of the common purple lilac.
The common and delectable morel is a soil mushroom. The southeast part of Minnesota, with its many forested hills and valleys, is probably the best morel-picking part of the state. But woodlands anywhere from the southwest to mid-state and into the north are capable of producing a morel crop.
Morels make fabulous eating. To find morels, check a variety of places after a warm spring rain. Some people search old apple orchards, others look in evergreen woods or under stands of aspens. I find woodlands of maples and basswoods to be excellent morel haunts. Remember, once you find a patch it may be good year after year.
Jim Gilbert’s Nature Notes are heard on WCCO Radio at 7:15 a.m. Sundays. Gilbert taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.