Morel Mushroom Meetings Draw Big Crowds!

Extension educators use the occasion to do more than just talk about where to find the mysterious fungus.

Published on: Apr 18, 2012

Who says people won't come to Extension meetings in today's modern, techno-world? Bill Doig and his co-horts in central Indiana are proving that if you have the right topic, they will come. Doig is the Extension ag educator in Johnson County.

"Bill got this idea to hold meetings about finding mushrooms, and it's turned out to be a big deal," says Chris Parker, long-time Morgan County Extension educator. About 75 people attended a meeting hosted in his county.

"We used it to go further and talk about other topics, such as growing degree days," Parker says. Also known as heat units, GDDs are most commonly used to measure corn development, but they actually apply to a number of other plants. Anything that relies on warm temperatures to begin growing and continue growing can typically be related to the GDD concept.

Morel Mushroom Meetings Draw Big Crowds!
Morel Mushroom Meetings Draw Big Crowds!

Doig also educates people about what morels are- fungi, and how to distinguish them from poisonous fungi that pose as imposters, or false mushrooms, in the woods. "Part of the program is just to encourage people to get out into the woods and enjoy natural resources," Doig says. However, he was gratified to see about 110 people show up for the meeting his home county, and so many people wanted to hear the program in Hendricks County that he had to schedule two different sessions. He also presented the program in Bartholomew County.

The edible morel is of the genus marchella, Doig says. There are a number of common layman terms for variations of this mushroom, including sponges, which can be black, yellow or gray, true yellow mushrooms, landscape and burnsite mushrooms and even half-free mushrooms.

The inedible and poisonous Verpa Genus is a false morel. They can be deadly if eaten. The major way to tell the difference is that nearly all morels have hollow stems, Doig says. If the stem isn't hollow, beware because it is probably a poisonous species. The caps are also different. The poisonous type may even connect to the stem outside the cap.

Take time to make sure the type you're finding is edible if you intend to take them home and fry them up, Doig cautions.  Remember a big clue is that when you are slicing the mushroom in half for cooking, the stem should be hollow inside.