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Morel season, here and gone

Posted: June 17, 2013 - 9:58pm  |  Updated: June 17, 2013 - 10:02pm
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Soldotna resident Kenny Bingaman holds a few of the black morels harvested from his yard Monday The traditionally wild mushrooms have appeared in his yard for the last few seasons.
Soldotna resident Kenny Bingaman holds a few of the black morels harvested from his yard Monday The traditionally wild mushrooms have appeared in his yard for the last few seasons.

Morchella Esculenta doesn’t ring out as something tasty enough to fetch more than $350 per pound dried, but call them “hickory chickens” and mouths will water.

Black morels are considered to be among the tastiest of the edible mushrooms on Earth and, for some, they rank up there with the best cuts of red meat.

In Alaska morels are mostly found in conifer and hardwood forested areas that have recently burned, but for the last three years Soldotna resident Kenny Bingaman has found them growing in his yard.

“I don’t know where they came from,” he said, while wondering if others in town have found them growing in yards. “They can’t just be at my house.”

Though he’s not sure of how the morel-growing mycelia germinated in his yard, Bingaman knows exactly what to do with them. Lightly butter and fry them, sliced. Once and a while stewed with caribou meat, carrots and onions.

A big, big fan of morels prior to their arrival at his home, Bingaman has gone as far as Tok, in the past, to hunt for them in the remnants of forest fires. That area once drew commercial mushroom hunters by the hundreds.

About 50 each year pop up in Bingaman’s yard and would normally last about two weeks — if he didn’t eat them. Bingaman’s advice for other Kenai Peninsula residents that find the mushroom in their yard this week is water them well the night before you harvest them. More will pop up. Don’t use city water, nothing with chlorine in it, he said.

Bingaman planned to eat his yard harvest Monday night after lightly frying them in butter, but only after waiting for his wife Tina to come home and join him for the feast.

It’s a little bit late for Bingaman’s crop, but the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service says that when air temperatures reach the mid-60s with overnight lows reaching 45 degrees, conditions are good for morels.

According to the Kenai Peninsula Mycological Society local morel hunters look in the burned areas of Caribou Hills and Skilak Lake. Bingaman said he’s had past luck around Tustumena Lake as well.

While the mushroom is delicious enough to fetch hundreds of dollars per pound, someone new to hunting morels should consider a few things; false morels — a morel lookalike that some also consider delicious — can be fatal and you should not eat the real ones raw. Morels contain a small amount of toxin that dissipates when cooked. To differentiate between morels and their potentially deadly doppelganger, unexperienced hunters should consult field guides or go with more experienced mushroomers.

Reach Greg Skinner at

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kenai123 06/18/13 - 10:50 am
hunt mushrooms instead of salmon...

Yeah maybe instead of hunting salmon we can all just start hunting morel mushrooms! Oh no, if we do that then the state will feel forced to try to somehow "manage them"... That would be "the official history" of our mushrooms, just like our salmon.

I am hearing that our ADF&G now wants to TOTALLY close down the Kenai River to even hook & release fishing because of low returns. I wonder if our glorious ADF&G is also considering the brutal commercial gill nets which have been active since about June 9th, down around Kodiak? How many thousands of kings which would normally be headed for the Kenai & Kasilof Rivers, are even now being commercially processed while our beloved ADF&G now eagerly moves to close down a Kenai minor hook and release sport fishery? Can anyone hear the Kodiak industrial salmon processors busy grinding up our northern bound kings? Don't worry about it ADF&G, they are only the last of their kind on the Kenai. Just because our kings have to slide by Kodiak to get to the Kenai is no reason for the ADF&G to become concerned...

Even our ADF&G own numbers show that a maximum hook & release sport fishery on the Kenai River could only accidentally kill a couple hundred kings. Since there is only about a dozen people per day even fishing the Kenai right now, that couple hundred is no doubt about 10% of that. So our ADF&G wants to shut-down a sport fishery for accidentally killing maybe 10 - 20 kings while allowing a Kodiak commercial fishery to accidentally kill thousands at the same time? This is what we call proper fisheries management? Wow, I guess that is how you manage a sport fishery "into oblivion". So that is where our morel mushrooms would go if we had the state manage them. Shusss...I guess we shouldn't let the state know that we have morel mushrooms or they may want to also go manage them "into the ground". Hey maybe we could get the state to try to manage our mosquitoes?

beaverlooper 06/18/13 - 01:10 pm
Want some cheese?

Want some cheese with that whine there 123?

radiokenai 06/18/13 - 01:17 pm
Kenai 123

Boo-hoo-hoo :-*

That is what happens when guides and tourist overfish a river for a particular gets closed down!

This should have been done 5+ years ago...

robert white
robert white 06/18/13 - 03:21 pm

call Mark Begich, he needs a vote!

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