Ahh.. it’s May in the Tetons and the fungi are popping up everywhere. A particularly popular fungi are called Morels, they look like brains on a stem – a little crazy looking. Delicious if you like mushrooms, especially good on steaks, pasta or just stuffed.
Combing the woods for those gems – your eyes darting back and forth, walking through the damp grasses, the smell of fresh spring air filling the valley floor. The suspense and the excitement of finding these oddly shaped phenomenon is just part of the welcoming season change in Jackson. Sometimes you won’t see any and others you will see groves of them surrounding you, it’s pretty magical!
Out of the shear excitement, it’s easy to forget the morel mushroom etiquette.
Some Morel Mushroom Etiquette
- False Morels vs. Real Ones: You do not want to get these mixed up. The false Morels are actually poisonous. The real morels are hollow where the false ones are not. The Teton County Library has a lot of mushroom books to get you knowledgeable about morels and where to find them and identify them.
- Bring a basket or netted bag to collect: Mushrooms release their spores and when you pick them it’s wise and only right to let those spores take a journey through the woods with you.
- Don’t pick every single mushroom: Trust me there are plenty of morels to go around. But aside from that you want those mushrooms to drop spores so we may all enjoy them for years to come.
- Leave the base of the stem/root intact and in the dirt: it’s important to remember this when you harvest them, very much like #3 it encourages them to grow back next season.
- Never ask someone where they go: Let some things remain a secret and discover your own special Morel stashes.
- It’s illegal to forage for mushrooms in Grand Teton National Park: Unfortunately someone spoiled it for the rest of us but don’t worry there are plenty of places to go.
- Large animals are afoot, be alert and respect their space: Since this is the time of year when bears come out and begin to forage themselves it’s wise to bring your bear spray. Wandering through the woods and keeping your head down is primarily what hunting for Morels is like but be sure to keep an eye out for the four-legged creatures and their habitat you are entering.
Invasive Species to Lookout for..
Houndstongue: A plant that flowers every other year, the noxious Houndstongue creates a heart-shaped bur seed. If you have spent any amount of time hiking or exploring in the outdoors, you are most likely familiar with this seed that turns light brown and stick to clothes and animals in the fall season, as it likes to hitch a ride around by sticking to your socks and shoes or your pet’s fur. It is crucial to note that the Houndstongue is toxic if consumed in high enough quantities, because it has an alkaloid that stops liver cells from reproducing.
Although in May there are no new blooms of Houndstongue these little free-loaders resurface after the snow melt and will happily hitch a ride as you zigzag the valley for those Morel mushrooms. Kindly throw these incredibly annoying seeds in the trash can, instead of on the ground, to help minimize the spread of this incredibly annoying weed.