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JW: Morel mushrooms, those of us who like to walk in the woods in Michigan, love to hunt for them. I'm Judy Wagley. This is “From the Ground Up!” My guest today is Sister Marie Kopin, she is a mushroom enthusiast. Thanks for joining me today.

Sr. Marie Kopin is a mushroom enthusiast!
Judy Wagley
Sr. Marie Kopin is a mushroom enthusiast!

MK: Yes, it's fun being here with you.

JW: Sister, why are morels so mysterious?

MK: Because they are. Everybody wants to find morels, and they can hide all different places. They can grow under trees, on trunks, up in the branches.

JW: What makes them so special?

MK: People love to eat them, and they are quite plentiful for about three weeks in May in Michigan.

JW: So we're looking for them starting when?

MK: Right before Mother's Day. We have a club in Michigan, Michigan Mushroom Hunters Club, and we have our big spring morel foray in Lewiston on Mother's Day weekend each year.

JW: Where should we look for them? I know it's a big secret when people have their spots, but…

MK: Oh yes, you never tell exactly where you find them, but you could describe what it's like.

JW: Yes, let’s do that!

MK: I think they are under any species of trees. More depends on the weather. If they got enough water, if they didn't get frozen out with a hard, hard frost, I think that's the thing to really look for. There's all kinds of ways to look for mushrooms. You know, some people head for where there's big fire. And the thing is, usually they come up the next year after the fire. But we found out in other places they're related to the species of the trees that burned.

JW: Why after a fire?

MK: Because the dear mushrooms are related to the trees, we have pictures, cartoons-- and you'll see a tree and the roots of the tree are talking and there's a mushroom and it has a root and they're even shaking hands. So because they help each other with the right kind of supplies to live. And when there's a fire, all of a sudden the tree doesn't have the supply. And the mushroom is trying to help the tree to live. So the mushroom grows cause they gotta get up there and feed that tree!

JW: It's all connected, isn't it? Mother Nature does a great job of that!

A good harvest of beautiful true morels.
A good harvest of beautiful true morels.

MK: That's right. It's called a mycelium because they say 95 per cent of all plants in Michigan are connected with a fungi. And they can't live without each other.

JW: Now, of course, we are just talking about morels today, but during the spring there are lots and lots of other mushrooms out there, too.

MK: Right-- especially August and September. That's the big fruiting time here. There's no morels during that time unless you're growing them in a factory. We have mushroom factories here for morels.

JW: What other conditions might we expect to find morels?

MK: With enough rain. And not too heavy a frost too late. The first time I have written down that I found a morel in Isabella County is April 15th. More come in May.

JW: Now morels have that very distinct look. They're kind of cone-shaped. I think they look like a honeycomb or almost like a sponge.

MK: Sponge. I like that-- they do. Most people say there's three kinds of morels: there’s black, there's brown and there's white. Well, really, there's about 60 different kinds of morels. And that doesn't account for those poisonous ones. They're fake morels. Yes, Gyromitra.

JW: We mentioned earlier that morels are so good to eat, but not false morels. No, no, no. We don't want to do that!

False morels (Gyromitra) DO NO EAT THESE!

MK: Correct, because they have rocket fuel in them-- monomethylhydrazine.

JW: Yeah. So let's definitely not eat false morels. How can we tell when we're out in the woods?

MK: Well, they're really spongy, and they don't grow up high or tall.

JW: I think they don't have that honeycomb look as much like the true morels. I think they're a little, like, bumpier. So please, please, anyone who is thinking about going out into the woods and hunting for morels, make sure you take a guidebook or a person with you who knows what they're doing so you don't end up with those false morels. But the true morals if you find them, in my experience, once you find one, then you find more right around them.

MK: That's right. The species kind of grow together.

JW: And when you do find them, take them home, clean them up, cut them because they're hollow on the inside and they could have little critters on the inside too.

MK: That is true. You’ve got to brush those off, yes!

JW: How do you like to prepare your morels Sister?

MK: I like them just plain fried in butter, and then have maybe scrambled eggs on the side and toast.

JW: It's a spring treat!

MK: That's right!

JW: Sister Marie Kopin, thanks so much for joining me today for “From the Ground Up!” and talking about these elusive morals.

MK: Yes. And thank you so much, Judy. Bye!



Judy Wagley is WCMU’s midday host, and is the producer of The Children’s Bookshelf from From the Ground Up! She guides listeners through their weekdays from 9am to 3pm.