Where Do Desirable Mushrooms Grow?
The once you do not want, grow everywhere.
The thing is how to find mushrooms that are desirable.
Here I will outline how I went about it. If you have other techniques,
please let me know, and I will add them to this list.
As you start learning about mushrooms and mushroom hunting you will soon find out that the direct approach usually does not work. You can not walk up to a person that knows and just ask him or her to show you, or tell you, where they find King Boletes or Morels. They will not tell you. Or they will tell you a lie. In fact it is considered poor etiquette to ask. Many desirable mushrooms are found in a few square feet, after searching several hundred acres in many different locations. So that it takes a lot of time and effort to find these spots. A person that put in a lot of time finding these locations can not afford to tell you where they are. Since this knowledge would not cost you anything, you most likely will tell your friends and pretty soon so many people will visit that spot that the person that originally found it will have to go find a new one. There is not enough mushrooms for everyone, in these locations. People that know will use different methods to avoid answering: "Where do I find Morel?". The most common answer is, "I do not know". This could be a lie. Technically it is true, he is saying that he does not know where you will find a Morel. Mushroom hunters turn into lawyers. If that person feels like talking he or she might spin you a yarn that will send you on a wild goose chase and waste a lot of your time.
There are exceptions to
most rules. If you ask a person where to find a certain mushroom, he or
she might tell you if he or she:
1. is not interested in that mushroom themselves
2. they found a better spot for that particular mushroom or
3. there is so many of that mushroom that there is enough for everyone.
Sometimes you get a useful hint. This is how I found my first Matsutake. I wrote a message to an e-mail acquaintance that I was planning a trip to Cape Cod and plan to do some mushroom hunting. He wrote back and said that he just got back from the Cape and he found 6 King Bolete and a bucket of Matsutake. At that time I thought that Matsutake grew in quantity only in the North West. I looked up the description of Matsutake in a guide and memorized the key characteristics. I did not find any Kings but did come back with a basket full of Matsutake. I agree with the Japanese, it is a choice edible.
Here is an example where there is enough mushrooms for everyone. When I went to the Cape I was staying in Dennis Port, where there is a large community of Russians. They gather "Red" (Scaber Stalk) mushrooms in the fall. It was June at that time. I told them that I heard from another Russian that "Red" mushrooms can be found on the Cape from about April on. Vlad volunteered to take me and Sasha and see if this is true. He took us to several places where he gathers "Reds". We got a bucket full that day. I am sure that Vlad did not show his prime spots. Since he showed me some of his foraging spots I figured I would press my luck and ask him where he found King Bolete. I go by the old theory that it does not hurt to ask, even though it is considered poor mushrooming etiquette. He, suddenly, developed poor memory and changed the subject.
In general I try to find close by locations. That way I can check them more often during the year, and have a better chance of being at the right spot at the right time. I will travel longer distances to get Morel, Kings and Matsutake. I suppose when I find these mushrooms at nearer spots those that are further away will be abandoned. So here are the ways I go about finding a good mushroom spots.
Join a mushroom club and go out on forays. I joined Boston Mycological Club. This exposed me to about 10 different places where mushrooms can be found plus you have experts along who can help you identify or verify your finds. I still use about 3 of those places that we visited that first year of my membership. I was hoping to find someone I could become friends with and maybe even find a mushrooming buddy. Here I was disappointed. I found that most people preferred to hunt alone or they came with someone else. I tried attaching myself to another person or a group but I did not feel that they welcomed my company. Maybe it is my great personality??
These BMC foray locations are chosen at the beginning of the season. They are chosen by members of BMC that "sponsor" the foray. It is not surprising, therefore, that little of the choice edible mushrooms are found at these forays. These "sponsors" will not choose their prime mushrooming location, of course. Many times the foray falls on a day where it has not rained in a while or there is a downpour and hardly anyone shows up. I also observed that many experienced people will not display choice edible mushrooms that they find. They hide those. Usually it is up to the beginner to find the edibles even when they do not know what they are doing. Again there are exceptions.
To find my first Morel, I first went out with the Berkshire Mycological Society in the spring of 2004. They hold their forays in the Berkshires where the Morel are more common. So the leaders could afford to disclose some of their less productive locations. I asked them if they looked for Morel by dying or dead American Elm. The leader said that all American Elm are dead and gone and the Morel now grow in association with White Ash in the Berkshires. I knew that this was not completely true since I found out on the Internet that Rt. 7 in the Berkshires is known as Majestic Elm Trail and has many Elm that are being kept alive by use of fungicides. Also I stopped by and looked at these Elm to get to know what one looks like. I then was able to recognize them wherever I went. I found many in the Westboro area. I even found them in the locations where we found Morel growing by White Ash. So were they associating with White Ash or some dead Elm nearby that we did not notice?
The 3 Morel forays were held in succeeding weeks with the last one on May 15. I found Yellow Morel at all three locations. When I got to see how the Morel looks growing in its natural state I was able to find them closer to home.
Look in parks and conservation land in your community. For this the Internet is very helpful. Most towns in Massachusetts now have their own web site. Get into "Parks and Recreations" or "Conservation Land" and check out what there is. Never forget to look in your back yard. My back yard is Jordan Pond Park. It is about 25 acres where 20 acres is the pond. Surprisingly this 5 acres of land has produced some good edibles. I have found my first Oyster here. Also Tree Volvaria, Milkys, Bi Color Bolete, Beefsteak Polypore, Chicken Polypore and Giant Puffball to name a few.
I try to go to parks that are less used. Shrewsbury does not have any conservation land and they do not take good care of most of their parks. I believe that this is a side benefit for mushrooms. Just a few weeks ago I discovered a park that has been abandoned by the town for years until a civic group got together and put up a sign then cleared some of the brush and cut a new walking trail. The locals knew about the park and used it but the rest did not know it existed. I did some exploring and found that it has a potential for a good mushrooming place. I explore for new likely spots in the winter.
Sometimes you meet people while hunting for mushrooms and they ask you what the hell you are doing. I enjoy talking to people I meet while hunting. Sometimes you can get useful information. A couple of years ago I met a woman walking her dog and she told me about Shrewsbury town land that consists of a dirt road that cuts through woods all the way to Grafton. It starts by Hebert Candy mansion on Rt. 20. I finally looked into it and discovered another promising spot for finding Black Morel this spring. I found this excellent article that describes what kind of habitat different Morel prefer.
Check Wildlife Management Areas In your local area. Remember other hunters can be found here, the once that use GUNS! If you want to avoid them, go on Sundays. I invested in an orange vest and use it when the guys with guns are about. I found a large WMA in my area that produces just about every kind of edible mushroom I am familiar with, though few Morel and no Kings and Matsutake, so far.
Check the web sites of nearby towns or use this State site that shows maps of land use by each town in Massachusetts. Start by clicking on the town or city you are interested in. Then click on Community Preservation. Then scroll down and click on Map 1: Absolute Constraints Map. You are presented with a PDF map that is color coded for different land use in that town. You are looking for Municipal Land or Permanently Protected land. These are green in color. You have to compare this map to one that shows the streets more clearly to pinpoint the spots. I have Street Atlas USA so that I can call up the same area as shown on the state PDF and compare.
Download a map from the Trustees of Reservations. Then do the footwork and check it out. Remember, walking is good for you. I am a diabetic and my doctor prescribes walking. I think of hunting for mushrooms as trying to obey my doctor.
Check your local Land Trust.
Check out a nearby State Forests and Parks.
Search the State database for reports on mushrooms found in different locations in the State. This will not only give you ideas as to where to find mushrooms but what kind and at what time of the year.
Find out if nearby towns have a Trail Guide or Conservation Land Guide. These guides are really booklets and cost $10 at this time. But the proceeds go for a good cause and they save you time and money. Also, some give details which are hard to find in other places. For example, the Bolton Trail Guide shows locations of "Old Orchard". Very useful in locating possible spots for Morel.
This is particularly useful tool in finding abandoned apple orchards if combined with information found in Method 4. The topographic maps at topozone.com show apple orchards as green dots. You then have to check if they are active orchards or abandoned orchards.