Bounties of Spring
"My family has foraged for many generations," says Shepherd, age forty. "We all love the morels just because they are a delicacy."
They are not alone. Each May, the 21,000-acre recreation area is full of morel hunters, according to Earl Flegler, a public lands specialist with the state Department of Natural Resources. "It's a very popular activity this time of year. There's no limit, as long as visitors pick mushrooms for their own consumption."
Morels are found in all fifty states but are most plentiful in the eastern half of the country. Enthusiasts say store-bought "button" mushrooms hardly compare in taste to the nutty, earthy flavors found in wild varieties such as the morel and the "hen of the woods."
Shepherd also gathers the large hen of the woods in the fall, but morels are his passion. "Black" morels range in color from dark black to very light brown or tan. Others can be white, yellow, or gray. He says the largest yellow ones are found at the end of the season; he's seen some as big as a two-liter pop bottle.