Armed to the hilt with empty bread sacks, my mother took me on my first morel mushroom hunt at the tender age of nine. Like a typical nine year old, I had absolutely no interest in looking for mushrooms, which I knew, would taste disgusting. We kids are born with this information that the likes of mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, etc are the equivalent of kryptonite to Superman when eaten by little kids. So why on earth would I want to find more of them? But that all changes when my mother held up a morel to show me what they looked like.
I don’t know exactly why I loved searching for those elusive spores that only grow for a couple weeks a year. Again, I think it has to do with some instinct born into children, which makes them love to play hide-n-seek and search for Easter eggs. I was addicted to the hunt and every spring, I looked forward to the warming of the temperatures when we would arm ourselves with some empty bread sacks and head out for the patch.
Like moon shiners, marijuana growers, and gold miners, morel hunters guard their patch in a thick cloud of secrecy. Everyone loves to brag about how many mushrooms they found but whoa to the person who asks where. A heavy silence will fill the room followed by a polite laughter that means nice try for asking. If an answer is given it usually goes something like, “we found these around in some woods.” Nobody has ever to my knowledge every repeated that question.
Although I was forced to eat foods that I didn’t like as a child, my parents never forced me to eat mushrooms. They always offered, but when I refused, they would just divide and consume the mushrooms between themselves. Finally after a few years of this, I decided that I wanted to try one. I might of shot up with some drugs because I was just as addicted after that first mushroom. I was enveloped in a morel madness that to this day has never left.
Morel madness has consumed my family and has helped to coin such terms as ‘Mushroom Machine’ when referring to a dying elm tree ripe for mushrooms around it’s base and also the ‘Mushroom Mother Lode’ when referring to a large quantity of morels every where you look on the ground. For two or three weeks a year, the rural population of SE Iowa is found stalking through the woody draws looking for ‘mushroom machines’ in hope of finding the ‘mushroom mother lode.’ Now excuse me while I fry up some tasty morel morsels to eat before I go stark raving mad!