When it comes to mushroom hunting, morels get all the press. Most parts of the Midwest have nice spring flushes of morel species, especially Morchella americana and Morchella esculenta.
Morels are not particularly common in the Upper Peninsula. They sometimes appear in specific ecological settings but are simply not as gregarious here as they are to the south. Old apple orchards are the best places to look for morels in the U.P. It would be an interesting late May and early June project to look for morels using local historian Russ Magnaghi’s 2019 book Apple Culture in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Wisconsin Border.
There is another tasty spring mushroom in the Upper Peninsula, Cerioporus squamosus (also known as Polyporus squamosus), dryad saddle or pheasant back. While not finding morels, you probably walk past pounds of these brown-patterned polypore [has pores not gills] bracket fungi growing on aging hardwoods. Dryad saddles are easy to identify because of their distinctive smell, like watermelon rinds and cucumbers. Harvest the tender parts and slice thin. Cooked, dryad saddles have a pleasing nutty flavor, not unlike morels.
Everyone talks about spring morels, but up here, that’s not where the sweet action is. Mushroom hunting in the Upper Peninsula is a fall sport. What we lack in a spring season, we more than make up for with a rich mycological bounty in the fall.
Check back here as the season develops for more information about the greatest hunt in the U.P. Once you start finding edible and medicinal mushrooms, you’ll never look at our forests the same way again.
Adam Berger, UPLC Board Member