After what has seemed to be never-ending
cold, snow or ice, I think most of us are
more than ready to shed heavy coats
and start enjoying the outdoors!

I am no different. Every year, I look forward
to opening my home’s doors and windows
and letting fresh air flow through, taking long
walks on sunny spring days and sweeping
winter away from decks and patios in
preparation for filling planters with flowers
that will bloom throughout the summer.

Perhaps my favorite thing about springtime
is that this season brings back fond memories
of my father. As a child, I took many walks
with my father through the woods in the
spring. I would saunter along behind him as he
made his way to a predetermined spot where he
would stop, squat down and intensely peruse the
ground. After some time, he would turn to me and
say, “There’s one. You see it?”

Of course, our walks in the woods were not
simply to get some fresh air and exercise. We
had a mission, and that mission was to find
mushrooms. The elusive morel mushrooms,
to be exact. The beautiful, honey-combed
fungi that people enjoy hunting as much as
they do eating!

Because of my father, I became hooked on
mushroom hunting at a very young age.
For the past 40 years, I have searched for
mushrooms with my husband, Scott, instead
of my father. The ritual is very much the
same as it was with my dad. We walk slowly
through the woods with very little conversation,
constantly looking at the ground, concentrating
on getting a glimpse of a tasty morsel.

My favorite mushroom hunting tradition goes
back to when I was a little girl, and my dad would
always give me an opportunity to find and then
pick the mushroom that he’d already spotted.
Today when Scott and I are mushroom hunting, we
always make a pact as we’re entering the woods
that whoever sees the first mushroom will call the
other one over to see if they can find it, too!

So as spring approaches, the air gets warmer,
the sun shines brighter and the dogwoods and
redbuds bloom, I can’t help but think that it’s
time to take a long walk in the woods to see what I can find!

Did you know?

According to the Illinois Department of Natural
Resources website, www.dnr.illinois.gov, no license is
required for mushroom collecting in Illinois. However,
mushroom collectors do need landowner permission when
hunting on private properties. Collection of mushrooms is
allowed at many IDNR sites but is prohibited in dedicated IDNR
nature preserves. IDNR spring turkey hunting locations aren’t
open to mushroom collecting until after 1 p.m.
daily during turkey season. Mushroom collectors should call the
ndividual IDNR sites to learn site-specific regulations.