Current Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum intern and Arb caretaker Jake Hamilton stumbled upon a delicious black morel while removing garlic mustard from the newly installed Great Lakes Gardens at Matthaei Botanical Gardens. Garlic mustard is a prolific invasive herbaceous biennial plant in the mustard family that when bruised smells like garlic. Black morels (Morchella elata) are a species of edible fungus in the family Morchellaceae and can be found all over Michigan in late April and all through May. They're found growing near older ash and aspen / poplar tree stands in moist forested areas and begin growing the last few weeks of April and are ready for picking in the first few weeks of May. Be sure to cut the stems of the morels near the base as opposed to pulling their roots, or else the mushroom will not grow back at a later time. And be sure to collect them in paper bags to preserve them.
|Jake Hamilton shows off his catch.|
Morels make for a great addition to pasta dishes and are tasty on their own if sauteed for 8-12 minutes with butter, a few drips of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper, but be sure not to eat them raw; cooking will remove any toxins present. Upon your search for these elusive caps, use your “botany feet” to avoid smashing any of our Pure Michigan native woodland plant species!
|Closer view of the morel.|
Note: Identifying wild mushrooms can be very difficult. Sometimes even experts are stumped. If you're not sure what it is, best to leave the mushroom alone!