Morel Hunting: A unique Central PA hobby

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HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) — While some are unsure of how to spend their time during the coronavirus pandemic, others spend their time in a unique way.

The weather is turning, the trees are blooming, and the mushrooms are sprouting.

Yeah, that’s right. It’s mushroom season in Pennsylvania, something thousands of people across Central Pennsylvania take part in: Mushroom Morel Hunting.

“We’re looking at every deal Elm tree we come to, that has the bark peel on it, and that’s really the heaviest producers now,” said Dan O’Brien a Bedford County Morel Hunter.

Morels, or morchellas, are the fruit of a fungus that sprouts in the moist soil of woods and forests.

They are otherwise known as mushrooms, grow between the months of March and May, and can be found not only near Elk trees, but also Oak, Ash, Sycamore, and Wild Cherry trees.

Dan O’Brien took me on a search through Canoe Creek State Park in Hollidaysburg to find the morels.

“To define morels, it is driven by species, but tree species, by moisture and by soil temperature,” Dan said.

“The morel forms a symbiotic relationship with a tree and when the tree dies, the morel fruit sends out spores and moves on.”

Morels are typically found in forested areas, so Dan and I went into the depths of the park to search for morels.

Dan also tells me he’s had days where he has spent hours of searching for morels with no luck. And we were almost an hour into searching, until…

“Okay come stand where I am, in front of you you’ll see some blue flowers, behind those blue flowers is a morel,” Dan explained.

Not just one morel, there were four within feet of each other. Hours of searching and walking, leading to find some thoroughly sought after morels.

And what are these morels used for?

“The reconstituted morels just about triples the flavor, they’re really mild flavored mushrooms,” Dan adds.

Morels are the perfect ingredient to use in a dish, once properly dried and washed out.

If you’re in need of a hobby during this pandemic, Morel hunting is highly recommend.

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