Every spring, Strasburg resident Robbie Parks heads up to the mountains to hunt for morel mushrooms.
“It’s something we’ve done ever since I was a little kid,” Parks said. “My grandfather would always take us out, and I thought I would continue the tradition.”
Parks travels to Little North Mountain, west of Strasburg, starting in mid-March and continues through May to pick his fill of morel mushrooms.
The honeycomb-looking mushrooms are found in and on the edge of forested areas. Parks said that he finds many of the mushrooms near wet tree hollows and places where dead foliage is located. He said that he finds the common white morel mushrooms near cedar trees.
“They thrive in poorly soiled areas,” he said.
Parks said that he goes back to the same place every year, though he wouldn’t disclose the exact spot where he picks the mushrooms. He said that he picks an average 500 to 1,000 morel mushrooms a year.
Some mushroom hunters use bags like those used for onions or mesh bags to help let out the mushrooms’ moisture so they’re not soggy. Parks said he uses an onion bag when he goes out because the holes in the bag allow the spores from the mushrooms to fall to the ground and increase the mushroom population.
The mushrooms that Parks collects are used for cooking. He rolls the mushrooms in flour and sautes them in butter.
“They taste real good,” Parks said. “They have a much better flavor than the mushrooms in the store.”
For those who don’t want to go hunting for morel mushrooms, they can be purchased online, but it could be pretty pricey. According to Morel Masters, a website that sells morel mushrooms, a half-pound of fresh mushrooms would cost $45. Parks said that most of the time he gives much of his mushroom bounty to people who want them.
“I give most of them to older people who aren’t able to go out and get them themselves,” he said. “I figured if I gave some of them out instead of keeping them all to myself, I’d have better luck in finding more.”
Parks said that he will continue to go mushroom hunting as long as he can. “If you see me out there, please don’t shoot me,” he joked.