Morels & the greatest week in Chicago outdoors

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Our daughter and I set out in the light warm rain Monday after school. We found the patch of morels we expected. We cut some of the larger ones, but left smaller ones to grow, hoping nobody picked them ahead of us.

Traditionally May 5 is the day we first find morels big enough to cut at our favorite spot.

The first week of May is the traditionally greatest week in Chicago outdoors. It is also the greatest week for Illinois record fish.

This year looks to be living up to history. Lilacs bloomed last week. Redbuds burst into color. Largemouth bass piled up on shore over the weekend. Some smallmouth bass followed the full moon into to bed near shore on Lake Michigan.

And morels popped.

Jeff Norris called last week to say his signal tree was right for finding morels. The old saying is that the time to search for morels is when oak leaves are the size of squirrel ears. That old saying also applies to when to plant many garden items.

How the hell do you know how big a squirrel’s ear is? I don’t want to be that close to the backyard bastards.

My signal is that morels typically pop about a week after our lilac blooms. For me it is a family affair. It helps to have the kids’ eyes. And the kids serve as a diversion when I cut morels in a public space.

And it is cut morels. Never pull them. Carry them in a mesh bag, not in plastic, to help spread spores. That is how you keep a spot producing year after year.

Old elms, especially dead or bark-shedding elms, are the most basic key to finding morels. Once you master that, you can build to more profound foraging patterns.

Morels may be foraged at most state sites (not natural or other protected areas), though not at local forest preserves in northeast Illinois.

The practical bible on mushrooms is “Edible Wild Mushrooms of Illinois and Surrounding States,” by Joe McFarland and Gregory M. Mueller.

The best is yet to come, as Lee Sczepanski messaged Monday night, “Big yellows ain’t here.”

All I know is that I had a pile of morels with my eggs Tuesday.

I love natural rhythms.

STRAY CAST: With a royal blue Lund Tyee with red and white trim powering north to Belmont Harbor, time is to call the mouthy guy who once dreamed of a 62-foot boat and ask him to dock it at 31st Street Harbor; I’m tired of bailing water with a Hills Bros. can and plugging holes with old socks.

* * * *


Oak Brook Chapter of Trout Unlimited’s “Spring Fling” open house: Informational meeting, used gear sale and silent auction, free, lunch included, White Eagle Homeowners Clubhouse, Naperville, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday,

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