Our first foray into the wilds of Sakatah Lake State Park just west of Faribault, Minnesota proved fruitful! Ha! Sorry I couldn’t resist saying that. We were geared up for a fun day and we weren’t disappointed. There were plenty of foragers who joined us as the trip was organized by the Minnesota Mycological Society. Over 60 people arrived at the Park and were ready to forage by 10am. Our quarry was Morchella esculenta, or the common morel mushroom. And in case you didn’t know, it is the official state mushroom of Minnesota.
The season is still rather early as our winter hung around for an extra 3 weeks. The trees haven’t even leafed out yet. You can still see through the woods as if it were the middle of April. It made it a little easier to get low and see to the ground, however the ground cover is springing up pretty fast now. Another week and the morel mushrooms should be perfect. The group found quite a few, but they’re not very mature yet.
A word of advice, you will want to take precaution against ticks and mosquitos. The best way to do that is to treat your jeans, your shirt and your socks with permethrin. You can get it in the form of an aerosol at most camping stores or as a spray. We opted for the spray. Don’t treat this stuff lightly. Do NOT spray it on while wearing your clothes. You must treat the clothing and let your clothes dry for at least 2 hours before wearing your outfit. You do NOT want to spray yourself with this chemical. We purchased the Sawyer brand and treated our clothes earlier in the week. Tuck your pants into your socks and wear gloves. There are plenty of prickly shrubs and you will get scratched if you’re not properly covered. When we arrived it was overcast and had been sprinkling. This was a good thing because otherwise it could’ve been warm to be covered up as we were.
Finding the morels is not as easy as you might think. They blend into their surroundings as they are a grey to golden yellow in color. At this time of year, look for dead or dying elm trees with a nice sunny southern exposure. The ground needs to warm up a bit for the fungus to fruit, so this year especially you’ll need to look carefully. Another item to carry is a long stick to bend ground cover over while you peer closely. Some folks used old ski poles, others had their favorite hiking rod. Still others had carved their own sticks with wooden morel mushrooms at the top of the staff. I opted for something provided by mother nature. I found two nice sticks each about 3 feet long. A used hockey stick works pretty well too.
Another find were hundreds of wild onions. These are similar to spring ramps or wild leeks. They are rather potent for their size, so you don’t need very many. But we can tell you how delicious they are! We sauteed the wild onions with our vegetable medley for diner tonight and it was terrific! Are you wondering about how the morel’s taste?
Well, we can tell you that we just sauteed them in a little butter with salt and pepper. They were outstanding! They are a very meaty mushroom. Eating them is like taking bites off of a steak. We’re looking forward to our next foray near Lake Pepin.
If you like biking, you’ll enjoy Sakatah Lake State Park too. The Sakatah State trail runs about 40 miles from Fairibault to Mankato. It’s an old, paved railroad bed and the biking is easy. There are plenty of rest stops with picnic tables. Bring a lunch and enjoy the fresh air. We biked for about 90 minutes at a leisurely pace and covered about 14 miles.
By the time we were ready to bike, the sun had emerged and warmed us up providing a little of the season’s first humid air! Spectacular!
Are you finding any morel mushrooms? Have you gone foraging before? If you’re willing to share a good location to find some, please feel free to type a tip or location in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you!
Other sightings today included a bluebird, early spring wildflowers (Dutchman’s Britches) and several species of woodpeckers.