There are several kinds of mushrooms out there in the fields and
forests of Indiana, and many of them are edible. A lot of them
aren't. This will not be an article about how to tell the difference
between edible and poisonous mushrooms. This will be more
about the three kinds of mushrooms that draws the attention of
many mushroom fans across the state. Those would be the morel
mushroom, the stump mushroom, and the cauliflower mushroom.
Let's start off first with the one mushroom that has a very
passionate and loyal following of fans. That would be the morel.
Also known as a sponge mushroom, the Morchella esculenta,
grows in a wide variety of locations. We have found them under
apple trees, in a cow pasture, along fence rows, under cottonwood
trees, under dead elm trees, and the list goes on and on. I once
pulled into my cousin's driveway, got out of my car, and right
there next to the driveway was a morel. The most searched areas
has to be along ditch banks. A lot of them are found out in the
forests as well, but the conditions need to be right.
If you listen to the people who talk a lot about morels, you should
focus on the banks of streams that face south and west first, as
these get the most sunlight. I have had my best luck on banks
facing east. When you gather your morels, you want to pinch or
slice the morel just above the level of the ground. Never, under
any circumstances should you pull up the morel.
When should you go morel hunting? About the best answer I can
give to that question is springtime. It is all dependent on getting
the right amount of moisture and the right amount of heat. This
could happen in April, May, or June.
The cauliflower mushroom, also known as the Hen of the Woods,
or Sheepshead, is usually found around the base of oak trees or
stumps. The Sparassis crispa could be best described as looking
like coral from a coral reef. These mushrooms grow to rather large
sizes, with 5-10 pounders being the typical size. With all the
different layers of petals, they make cleaning one a challenge.
I find most of mine during the October part of bow season for
deer. The ones I found last year was after I took a small walk
through the oak forest after I shot my deer. There were three in
the corner of the woods not 50 feet from my tree stand.
These can be frozen and used in any dish that calls for
mushrooms. I like to slice the petals thin and then bread and deep
fry them. After freezing I have found that you need to place the
petals in between sheets of paper toweling and press out the
excess water that they have in them. They are a stronger tasting
mushroom than you may be used to. They do go well on top of a
nice ribeye steak. Just sauté them up with some onions.
The stump, or button mushroom is one of my favorites. These
too are found growing around stumps and mostly dead oak trees.
They grow in groups of several mushrooms. When you pick
these, you want to cut the cap off at the stem and then look at
the end of the cut to see if there is a hole in the stem. If there is,
you can rest assured that there is a worm in the cap. It is best to
get these mushrooms soon after they come out of the ground.
My favorite way of cooking these is to just bread them and then
pan fry them up like breaded tenderloin. They go very well as
sandwiches with a little mayo.