Morel Forecast

Here it is, the dead of winter, and thus no pictures of mushrooms to post. My head is filled with images of morels soon to come, however, as I begin to dream of the BIG YEAR. There are a number of reasons why I think this will be a great year – possibly a bumper crop.
2011 was our last very good year here in Tennessee. Then, in 2011, the early spring temperature soared from just right to 80 degrees in a week it seemed. Conditions were hot and dry and morels were scarce. On the other hand, in mid-August we were flooded with Lobsters for about a week. By flooded I mean almost every pine stand I looked in. I had never found more than 10-15 pounds before in the patches that I hunted. In 2012 I found probably 150 pounds. That’s what I mean by bumper crop.
Last year, 2013, the weather pattern was quite different. We had a wet Spring and the weather was cool. In fact, the soil temperature did not reach 50 degree until late April which is usually past morel season here. As a result the season was stretched out over 5-6 weeks and hunting our usually high-yield patches produced only about 20 or so each foray with 2 people hunting, and my partners in crime were experts. The rains continued through the summer and we had only about 7 days with temperatures above 90 – our usual is 20 or more days. As a result, chanterelles began to appear in mid-May and continued until late August. Normally the season is roughly July 1 – Sept 1. The crop was abundant, and I found about 250 pounds versus my highest season of 100 pounds,  over a 20-year period.
So, 2011 was great morels, 2012 was fantastic lobsters and last year was fabulous chanterelles. I believe it’s morels again in 2014. Why?, one might ask. To start with, we ended 2013 with an annual rainfall 20 inches above normal. Second, we are now in the middle of the deepest cold spell in a decade. It is holding in the teens for three days with a low of ZERO tonight. Both my reading, my experience, and the experience of friends indicates that morels need a cold spell to stimulate maximum production. Of course, all this will be tempered by the actual temperature/rainfall mix in March and April.
Bottom line is that I am highly optimistic about the upcoming morel season – at least in the Great Valley. We shall see . . . . . .