Mushroom hunting is a handy skill, whether it be for wilderness survival or for putting tasty, wild food on the camp table or even the dinner table at home. Michigan, with its wet conditions and deep forests, is prime mushroom hunting country. To successfully hunt for mushrooms, you need to know where to find them and how to separate edible mushrooms from their poisonous lookalikes. You should also either pluck or cut the mushroom free from just below its base, leaving its root-like structures intact so the mushroom will grow back in the coming years.
Michigan's morels are popular enough that a number of Michigan-oriented websites are devoted solely to this mushroom. Morels come in a number of different colors, but are easily identified by their sponge-like, conical caps and solid stems. One source of their popularity is their nutty, meaty flavor. Another is how easy the morel is to separate from poisonous mushrooms with a similar appearance, leading "Northern Country Mushrooms" to call the morel "one of the easiest mushrooms to identify in the woods." To separate a real morel from a "false" poisonous one, cut it open. If the stem is hollow, the morel is safe to eat.
Morels prefer wet forest floors with sandy soil, but these mushrooms can grow almost anywhere. In Southern Michigan, morels can sometimes be found as early as April, but the morel hunting season peaks in May and then peters out through June.
Honey mushrooms, or "stumpies" as they are called in Michigan, are found growing on the rotting wood of fallen trees or stumps. However, they are also known to grow on living trees, where they are considered a major parasite. The stumpies grow in clusters and have a honey-like coloring. The cap is rounded when the mushroom is young but flatter when it matures. It has a strong flavor and its season is mid-to-late autumn.
Even the edible honey mushrooms are not safe to eat raw. They must be thoroughly cooked to avoid giving you digestive problems. However, there are lookalikes that are even more toxic. The poisonous mushrooms can be identified by their brown or rust-colored spores, while safe stumpies have white spores.
If you do encounter a clump of honey mushrooms growing on or around a living tree, consider pulling out its equivalent of a root system. This is one mushroom you do not want growing back in future years, as its presence damages the living host tree.
Chanterelles are shaped like trumpets. Some are orange or yellow, while another chanterelle variety is black. The mushrooms grow in the hardwood forests of Michigan between mid-summer and mid-autumn. However, they do have a dangerous lookalike, the jack-o-lantern. The quickest way to separate safe chanterelles from jack-o-lanterns is to look under the cap. If the mushroom has a network of gill-like ridges that are straight and sharp-edged, it is a jack-o-lantern.
Article Written By Edwin Thomas
Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.