Posts tagged flood

Trees Forever grant to go toward flood recovery landscaping

This just in from Trees Forever in Marion:

     Trees Forever today announced that it received a $10,000 grant from the Alliance for Community Trees (ACT) and The Home Depot Foundation. This challenge grant is part of the National NeighborWoods Program, made possible through generous support of The Home Depot Foundation. NeighborWoods is a nationwide initiative that engages the public in meaningful hands-on action to produce tangible improvements to community health through tree planting and stewardship. Trees Forever is one of just eleven organizations nationwide who received a NeighborWoods award in support of partnerships between urban forestry non-profits and affordable housing providers.

  Trees Forever is a regional nonprofit that plants trees and cares for the environment by empowering people, building community and promoting stewardship. Disastrous flooding in Iowa in 2008 irrepara-bly damaged 944 homes in Cedar Rapids, 75% of which were low-income housing. The city needs at least 420 new owner-occupied homes, half of which must be affordable housing. Trees Forever is partnering with Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity to help address this need and ensure green, sustain-able redevelopment in Iowa by planting approximately 40 trees at 20 new Habitat homes in the College Park Estates and Wilderness Estates neighborhoods of Cedar Rapids. 

Trees Forever will also plant another 50 trees at 20-25 Habitat sites in Des Moines, in partnership with the Greater Des Moines chapter of Habitat for Humanity. These projects will revitalize devas-tated Iowa neighborhoods and benefit low-income homeowners by increasing their property values, improving air quality, reducing storm water runoff and producing energy-conserving shade. Volunteers and future Habitat homeowners will receive training on proper tree planting and maintenance to ensure survivability of the trees and maximize their long-term benefits for Iowa communities.

“The NeighborWoods grant allows Trees Forever to help Habitat for Humanity leverage their landscaping budgets on dozens of new flood-recovery homes,” commented Karen Brook, Trees Forever Program Manager.  “And the new homeowners will benefit from the energy savings, aesthetics and improved home value that the trees provide over time,” Brook added.

For more information on the Trees Forever NeighborWoods project, please contact Karen Brook at (319) 373-0650 ext.20.  For more information on Trees Forever and its many programs, log onto www.TreesForever.org <http://www.treesforever.org/> .

About Trees Forever

Trees Forever is a nonprofit organization based in Marion, IA committed to planting trees, encouraging community involvement and stewardship, and caring for the environment. Programs focus on improving air and water quality, increasing wildlife habitat, providing substantial energy savings and beautifying our landscape. For more information visit www.treesforever.org <http://www.treesforever.org/>  or call 800-369-1269.

About Alliance for Community Trees

Alliance for Community Trees (ACT) is dedicated to improving the health and livability of cities by planting and caring for trees. With 160 grassroots affiliates in 40 states and Canada, ACT engages volunteers to take action to improve the environment where 80% of people live – in urban areas. ACT member organizations have planted and cared for 14.9 million trees in cities with help from 4.3 million volunteers. For more information, visit www.actrees.org <http://www.actrees.org/>

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State flower show coming to Cedar Rapids

    Organizers of the Federated Garden Clubs of Iowa annual flower show and meeting gave up their hotel space last year for flood victims.

This year, the statewide event returns to Cedar Rapids, on Thursday, June 18, 2009, and Friday, June 19, at the Cedar Rapids Marriott, 1200 Collins Rd. NE.   Jackie Strother of Martelle, the group’s persident, selected Cedar Rapids as the site for the annual event last year and decided to give it another try.

    Event co-chairwoman Brenda Hackbarth told me that three people will be judging the entries. At least 100 entries will be judged beginning at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.  The public can view displays from 7-9:30 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday in the hotel’s Rosewood Room. Brenda said there is no admission fee to view the flower show.

 For more info, see: http://www.gardencentral.org/iowa/

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A look at rain gardens

Gazette photographer Brian Ray takes photos of Lucy Hershberger in the rain garden at Forever Green Garden Center near North Liberty (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Gazette photographer Brian Ray takes photos of Lucy Hershberger in the rain garden at Forever Green Garden Center near North Liberty (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Our flood anniversary tribute continues with a look at rain gardens. Several people I interviewed for the article in the Sunday, June 14, 2009, Gazette said while rain gardens would not have prevented last year’s devastating floods in Iowa, they could have helped. Lucy Hershberger, co-owner of Forever Green Landscaping & Garden Center in Coralville showed me the well-kept rain garden in front of their site on Forevergreen Road, near North Liberty. Yellow and blue flag iris, native grasses, coneflower, liatris and dwarf arctic blue willow were planted when the rain garden was installed in September. It’s obvious that Hershberger’s  enthusiasm goes beyond trying to sell customers on a new fad. She has conducted free seminars on rain gardens for people to learn more and to better take care of their little corner of the environment. Hershberger remembers the interest in rain gardens and rain barrels in the early 1990s, at that time because of costs associated with watering. “Now it’s because of the awareness of stormwater management,” she said. “It’s not cost-driven.”

Blue flag iris

Blue flag iris

The following list of plants is from Iowa’s Rain Garden Design and Installation Manual Native Plant Favorites for Soils with Good Percolation Rates:

Common Name Height Comments

Blue grama 1-2 ft makes a good border

Bottle gentian 1 ft novel purple flowers

Butterfly milkweed 1-4 ft emerges late spring; no milky sap

Columbine 1-2 ft orange flower stalk may add 1 ft

Culver’s root 3-6 ft can get tall; for moderatley moist soils

Fox sedge 1-3 ft may not tolerate drought

Golden alexander 1-3 ft yellow dill-like flower, mod moist soils

Little bluestem 2 ft nice rusty color all winter

Mountain mint 1-3 ft for moist soils

Nodding onion 1-2 ft for moderately moist soils

Pale purple coneflower 4 ft most overused native; only in S. Iowa

Prairie blazing star 2-5 ft for moist soils

Prairie smoke 1 ft makes a good border

Sideoats grama 2-3 ft red anthers; not as tidy as little bluestem

Silky aster 1-2 ft loved by rabbits

Websites with native plant lists for rain gardens:

http://prrcd.org/inl/recommended_plants.htm

http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/runoff/rg/plants/PlantListing.html

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Flood photos part 2: Czech Village

Photos shot post-flood June 2008. Gazette photographer Cliff Jette and I were allowed to accompany shop owners when they first saw the devastation in Czech Village after the flood. Here is some of what we found:

Polehna's Meat Market was among the businesses hard-hit by the flood. Owner Mike Ferguson decided not to reopen the shop because of overwhelming rebuilding costs. (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Polehna's Meat Market was among the businesses hard-hit by the flood. Owner Mike Ferguson decided not to reopen the shop because of overwhelming rebuilding costs. (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Jan Stoffer and Gail Naughton, center, of National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, make their way down 16th Avenue. (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Jan Stoffer and Gail Naughton, center, of National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, make their way down 16th Avenue. (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Cliff Jette (right) shooting inside Polehna's. (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Cliff Jette (right) shooting inside Polehna's. (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Bozenka's Gif Shop, owned by Czech School teacher Bessie Dugena. (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Bozenka's Gift Shop, owned by Czech School teacher Bessie Dugena. (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Gail Naughton photographs Babi Buresh Center, next to Sykora Bakery (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Gail Naughton photographs Babi Buresh Center, next to Sykora Bakery (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Floodwaters remained in front of National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, days after the flood (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Floodwaters remained in front of National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, days after the flood (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Boat jammed behind cross near Joens Bros. Interiors (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Boat jammed behind cross near Joens Bros. Interiors (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Cliff Jette, right, talks to another photographer between Ernie's Avenue Tavern and Sykora Bakery (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Cliff Jette, right, talks to another photographer between Ernie's Avenue Tavern and Sykora Bakery (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Looking up muck-covered 16th Avenue SW, away from the Cedar River (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Looking up muck-covered 16th Avenue SW, away from the Cedar River (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Sign outside National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Sign outside National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library (photo, Cindy Hadish)

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Five Master Gardens

    Darrell and Joanne Hennessey turned a former cow pasture into a breathtaking landscape. Their home in Marion is one of five on the Linn County Master Gardeners Garden Walk, set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 13, 2009. The walk was canceled last year due to the flood.        Darrell said the couple battled hip-high weeds and grass when they built their home nearly 20 years ago. Invasive multiflora rose had to be cut out constantly. “It was kind of an uphill battle for awhile,” he said. They still battle deer, with 5-foot-tall plastic snow fence used to protect dwarf conifer and arborvitae in the winter. Soaker hoses are barely visible inside the beds and tags mark most of the plants, so identification is easy.

   The acreage is the kind of place where you could spend hours looking at the various flower beds that Darrell has constructed. He’s been spending four to eight hours daily getting ready for Saturday’s garden walk. If you get the chance, check out the Hennessey gardens and others on the tour.    I wish we could have visited all five of the gardens. They all sound marvelous.  More info and photos are in the Sunday, June 7, issue of The Gazette, and online at: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/linn/news/Garden+Walk.htm

      I didn’t get to stay nearly as long as I would have liked, but here is some of what I saw last week when I visited the Hennessey gardens:   

 

 

 

 

 

Several of the conifers at the Hennessey gardens/ Cindy Hadish photo

Several of the conifers at the Hennessey gardens/ Cindy Hadish photos

 

 

 

   

Darrell Hennessey takes a break from edging his garden beds to point out a feature of one of his dwarf conifers

Darrell Hennessey takes a break from edging his garden beds to point out a feature of one of his dwarf conifers

Hosta bed and trees at the Hennesseys' Marion acreage

Hosta bed and trees at the Hennesseys' Marion acreage

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Where do you go for strawberries?

Now that Iowa’s largest “you pick” strawberry farm – Hagen’s Berry Farm near Palo – is out of commission for the 2009 season, where else can Eastern Iowans go to pick strawberries?

I found a few growers at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship site: www.agriculture.state.ia.us 

But  I’m sure there are many not listed.

Here are the hours for some of them. Call ahead, as opening days vary.

    Bagge Strawberries near Independence is open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays beginning around June 14. Prices are $1.95/pound for pre-picked and $1.20/pound for “you pick.” Call (319) 334-3983.

    Heartland Farms near Waterloo is open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Sunday, with both “you pick” and pre-picked strawberries. Prices were not set as of last week. Call (319) 232-3779.

    Koehn Berries and Produce in West Union is open 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays. Prices are $2.30/pound for pre-picked and $1.15/pound for “you pick.” Call (563) 422-3716.

 Owner Max Hagen asked me to reiterate that Hagen’s Berry Farm near Palo will not have strawberries this year, but expects to return the following season. The fields were flooded last June and although some of the plants survived, Max said the quantity and quality would not be what his customers have come to expect.

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Garden Party and more in June

Following are some of the gardening and eco-events in Eastern Iowa in June 2009:

Fri., June 5., 8  p.m., An Evening with Fireflies, Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Rd. SE, Cedar Rapids. 1 ½ mile walk on grass-surfaced trails. Members, $3; non-members, $5. Children, $1. See: http://indiancreeknaturecenter.org

Sat., June 6, 4:30 p.m., Prairiewoods Garden Party at Mercy Medical Center’s Hallagan Education Center, 701 10th St. SE, Cedar Rapids. Features local wines and artisan cheeses from Kalona; dinner at 6 p.m., silent and live auctions and music. Cost: $35 each or $250 for table of eight. Call (319) 395-6700.

Mon., June 8 – Sat., June 27, RIVERRenaissance, flood anniversary events. See full schedule at: www.downtowncr.org

Tues.,  June 9 and Thurs.,  June 11, 6 p.m and Sat., June 13,  9:30 a.m., Brucemore in Bloom, 2160 Linden Drive SE. Wander among the unique flowers and plants as the Brucemore garden staff traces the development of the formal garden from conception to the current design. Learn about Mrs. Douglas’ vision of turning Brucemore into a country estate and prominent Prairie Style landscape architect O.C. Simonds’ involvement in the process. Admission: $10/adult and free to Brucemore members. Call (319) 362-7375 for reservations or register online: www.brucemore.org

Thurs., June 11, 9 a.m., Invasive Species Field Day, Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Center, 10260 Morris Hills Rd., Toddville. Learn about non-native invasive plants, typically transplants from distant places, that threaten native habitats in Iowa. Free program, lunch provided. Register by noon June 9 at www.LinnCountyParks.com by clicking on the “Events” area or call (319) 892-6450.

Sat., June 13, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Linn County Master Gardener garden walk. Explore five diverse Linn County Master Gardener gardens in Cedar Rapids and Marion. Gardens will include ornamental grasses, conifers, vegetables, perennials, containers, ponds and more. Master Gardeners will be at all of the gardens to answer your horticulture-related questions.  Admission: $5 per Adult; $10 per Family. Start at any of the five gardens. See: www.extension.iastate.edu/linn/news/Garden+Walk.htm

Sat. June 13, 10 a.m., Forever Green Garden Center, 125 Forevergreen Rd., Coralville, free pond and water feature seminar. Call (319) 626-6770 or e-mail:  lucyh@forevergreengrows.com

Sat., June 13, 1 p.m., Wetland dedication and walk, Indian Creek Nature Center. A half-mile walk where the Nature Center and Cargill have restored a forested wetland along the Cedar River. Free. See: http://indiancreeknaturecenter.org

Sat., June 20, 1 p.m.,  Green and Simple: Greens from the Yard, Indian Creek Nature Center. Join director Rich Patterson to learn how to identify and prepare nettles, dandelions, lambsquarter and other plants for food.  Members, $5; non-members, $8; children, $1. See:  http://indiancreeknaturecenter.org

Sat., June 20, 6:30-8 p.m., Summer Solstice Celebration, Prairiewoods, 120 E. Boyson Road, Hiawatha. Show appreciation for your dad and the summer season. Join us for a special Father’s Day/Summer Solstice Celebration. The evening will include poetry, prayer, festivities and end the night with a bonfire and s’mores. Free-will offering. Call (319)395-6700 and see: www.prairiewoods.org

 Sat., June 20- Sat., June 27, Project AWARE, Volunteer River Cleanup on the Cedar River. See: www.iowaprojectaware.com

Sun., June 21, 7-10 p.m., “Nature Rocks – The Concert,” Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Rd. SE, Cedar Rapids. A green benefit for the Indian Creek Nature Center and SPT Theatre Company. Featuring Mexican food; chair massages; lessons on recycling and a live music concert by SPT’s Doug Elliott, Gerard Estella, Janelle Lauer, Jane Pini and guest artist Dave Moore. Bring lawn chairs. Tickets are $25 for adults, children 16 and under are free. Call the Nature Center at (319) 362-0664 or pay at the gate. See: www.indiancreeknaturecenter.org

 Tues.,  June 23, 6 p.m., Summer Landscape Hike, Brucemore, 2160 Linden Drive SE, Cedar Rapids. Welcome in summer by joining the Brucemore gardeners on a 90-minute hike that will emphasize the spirit of summer through the sights and sounds of the Brucemore estate. Experience the vivid colors of the formal gardens in full bloom, the lush rose bushes, and the fruits of the orchard while listening to stories of the Brucemore families. Admission is $10.00 per person and $7 per Brucemore member. Registration required. Space is limited, call (319) 362-7375 or register online: www.brucemore.org

Thurs., June 25, 7 p.m., Backyard Composting, Meeting Room A of the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St. Learn about converting yard and kitchen waste into valuable soil for your yard and garden. Presented by Risa Dotson Eicke, Master Gardener Intern. Information on ECO Iowa City compost bin subsidy will also be available. ECO Iowa City is a grant-funded initiative to improve environmental sustainability in Iowa City. Call (319) 887-6004.

Sat., June 27, 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., ECO Iowa City Landfill and Compost Facility tour, 3900 Hebl Ave. SW. Learn about how compost is made on a large scale, the environmental benefits of composting as a waste reduction tool and how you can use compost to improve your yard or gardens. Parking is limited. Register by calling the Library Reference Desk at (319)356 -5200, option 5.

Sun., June 28, 2 p.m., Cedar Rapids screening of “Mad City Chickens,” a sometimes serious, sometimes whimsical look at the people who keep urban chickens in their backyards; 79-minute movie followed by discussion, Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Rd. SE. Admission by donation. For more info: www.tarazod.com/filmsmadchicks.html

If you know of other events, send an email to: cindy.hadish@gazcomm.com or add a comment below.

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Using (free!) compost to restore flooded yards

 

Screening equipment and compost piles at the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency's site in southwest Cedar Rapids (Cindy Hadish photo)

Screening equipment and compost piles at the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency's site in southwest Cedar Rapids (Cindy Hadish photo)

   Stacie Johnson, compost expert extraordinaire, sent me a note about getting flooded yards back in shape. Stacie, education coordinator for the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency, said owners of flood-damaged homes have been calling the agency about using compost as fill as they begin work on their yards this spring.  Last June’s floods wiped out the vegetation of thousands of homes in Eastern Iowa, especially in the Cedar Rapids area. One caller wanted to put compost 4 inches deep on her lawn, but Stacie advises against using compost as fill or topsoil. The grass might sprout, but would have long-term problems growing. Also, it would make a very soft spot in the yard, as compost is mostly organic matter with little mineral content. 

      The Agency is giving away free compost for Linn County residents and Stacie wants it to be used so it’s most beneficial to these homeowners.

Here is what she says:

    Compost is a good source of soil organic matter and shouldn’t be used as you would topsoil.  The three compost applications recommended by the Solid Waste Agency are mulching, amending and top-dressing.

Mulching: add one inch of compost as a mulch layer, no need to work in and can be topped off with wood mulch for a formal landscape.

 Amending: (most likely the best approach for flood homes)  work one to two inches into the top six inches of existing soil.

 Top Dressing – spread 1/4 to ½-inch layer of compost over existing lawn; best to aerate before top dressing and reseed after.

A rule of thumb for how much compost is needed to complete a project:  square footage x depth x .0031 = cubic yards needed for your soil amendment project.

The agency’s Web site: www.solidwasteagency.org has more information on hours and where you can pick up the compost. The compost is made from the leaves and other natural materials collected in Yardys. It is aged in piles and unwanted materials are removed with a heavy-duty screening machine. The result is rich, dark compost that is great for the soil.

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Rescuing a planet under stress

 

(Left to right) Erin Ely, Nancy Geiger, Bob Loyd and Frank Cicela. Photo from Clipper Windpower

(Left to right) Erin Ely, Nancy Geiger, Bob Loyd and Frank Cicela. Photo from Clipper Windpower

   Through a flood relief effort,  employees of Clipper Windpower have donated more than 750 “green” books to the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City public libraries.

   Clipper employees worldwide, including Clipper Turbine Works in Cedar Rapids, purchased T-shirts with taglines such as “Think Outside The Barrel” and “The Power Of Now” which contributed to the $8,000 in books donated.

    This is from Mary Gates, director of Global Communications at Clipper Windpower, Inc.:

     The book donation, which will jumpstart the library’s recovery, is a ‘green’ collection focused on various aspects of sustainable living. It replaces the collection lost during the disaster. Topics include gardening, permaculture, renewable energy, green building, ecology, culture, politics, community building, conservation, simple living, sustainable business, and a host of other subjects. The collection will include DVDs and audio CDs, as well as titles for young adults and children. 

    In making this donation possible, Clipper partnered with the Sustainable Living Coalition, a Iowa based non-profit organization dedicated to implementing innovative solutions for sustainable initiatives. In turn, the Sustainable Living Coalition secured discounted pricing from two book publishers – Chelsea Green and New Society Publishers – on more than 450 titles for the collection. 

    Among the more well-known titles is a book by Lester R. Brown called Plan B: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress & a Civilization in Trouble.  In his book, Brown outlines a stabilization plan for the climate without hampering economic progress. A few of the others are the Chelsea Green Guide to Composting, Going Solar, Forest Drinking Water and Lost Language of Plants

    The donation is among Clipper’s continuing Cedar Rapids flood relief efforts.  Just last year, Clipper matched funds raised by employees, and received donations from friends and suppliers totaling $175,000 in support of the company’s impacted employees and their families.

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Finding the elusive morel mushroom

Blonde morels/ photo from Forest Mushrooms Inc.

Blonde morels/ photo from Forest Mushrooms Inc.

I can finally say I’ve found some morel mushrooms! Actually, I didn’t have to go on a mushroom hunt, as many Iowans do in the spring, though I’d love to find them that way. The ones I saw were spotted at a grocery store in Cedar Rapids. They were selling for $12.99 for a 3.5 ounce package and came from Forest Mushrooms Inc., of St. Joseph, Minn.

 Per their Web site: Established in 1985, Forest Mushrooms, Inc. is a Minnesota company engaged in the research, cultivation and distribution of edible specialty mushrooms. They particularly specialize in the production of oyster mushrooms, and more recently, in growing shiitake mushrooms.  Their production facilities are located in St. Joseph, MN, 90 miles northwest of Minneapolis. They distribute  mushroom products to wholesalers, supermarkets, restaurants and specialty shops. The majority of products are delivered to the Twin Cities area, but they also distribute locally and nationally. See: http://www.forestmushrooms.com/

 Here is more that Kevin Doyle, president of Forest Mushrooms, Inc., sent to me about his company and his insight into morels:  All morel mushrooms are wild-harvested, not cultivated.  There have been many attempts to grow morels, and some occasional successes but nobody has been able to repeat their successes, and thus there are no farms that currently grow morels, to the best of my knowledge.  This is because there is a very complicated and interesting relationship between the morel mushroom mycelium (which are the vegetative strands of the fungus that grow underground), and the root hairs of the trees that are host to them.  We think that the strands of morel mycelium help the tree to absorb nutrients from the soil, especially minerals, by carrying the minerals through the mycelium and then inserting the mycelium and the nutrients in to the tiny root hairs of the tree roots.  The mycelium is much much smaller than the root hairs, and wrap themselves around the root hairs and then penetrate into the root. In turn, the morels likely absorb some carbohydrate (sugars) from the vascular tissue of the tree roots, so they relationship is helpful to both organisms.  

 However, there are conditions, including but not limited to damage to the tree from fire, Dutch elm disease, wind damage, etc., that cause the morel mushroom mycelium to send strands of mycelium to the fungus where they then produce the specialized reproductive organ that we know as a mushroom.  That mushroom then produces spores which are dispersed by the wind and are carried away to start a new colony in another area of the forest, thus propagating the life of the morel fungus.  This is an adaptive response that has developed through evolution to help the fungus survive adverse situations or events.  The mushroom is just a specialized part of the fungus’ life cycle, but the main act occurs way underground for decades and helps to sustain the trees themselves, thus morel mushrooms and also many other types of mushroom fungus are essential to the health of a sustainableforest ecosystem.

 The morels in North America are widespread, though we in the Midwest often think of them as a local phenomenon.  In fact, the morel season begins much earlier in almost every other area of the country than it does in the upper Midwest, due to the milder climates and earlier onset of Spring in other regions.  In the Pacific Northwest the morel season begins in late March, and can actually continue right on into early August in the higher elevations of the Rocky Mountains.  In Minnesota, where our business is located, we are used to seeing morels during the second half of May, typically.  I would imagine in your region it is the beginning of May most commonly.

During the milder and earlier Springs we were having a few years ago, the season began a bit earlier.  The season is triggered by the combination of adequate soil moisture and enough sunny days and warm temperatures to warm up the soil adequately to spur the growth of the mushrooms.  There have been years when the moisture is there, but the temperatures are too chilly, and by the time the mushrooms come up as temperatures warm up, the grass and small plants in the forest have already sprung up and obscure the mushrooms from view, so people think there is no mushroom season, when actually we just can’t find them under the forest floor cover!

 The morels you saw are blonde-colored morels from the western slope of

Packaged mushrooms from Forest Mushrooms, Inc.

Packaged mushrooms from Forest Mushrooms, Inc.

the Rocky Mountains in Oregon.  These are the best  morels in the country at this time, for flavor, appearance, and shelf life.  They are also similar in appearance to the mushrooms that we commonly see in the Midwest.  Later in the Spring there are several other varieties that grow in abundance in the Pacific Northwest, including “fire morels” (also called “burns”), which grow in huge numbers on the sites of last season’s forest fires.  These burn morels are smaller, not as thick, and have a conical shape.  Another morel commonly harvested commercially in the mountains is simply called a “natural” and is shaped more like a golf-ball, without the conical shape and more rounded, with a thicker shell.  (All true morels are hollow inside.)  The latest morelspecies to fruit in the Rockies is called the “grey morel” and can also grow on fire sites.  It is the largest morel in the country, grey in color, thick walled, and has a great shelf life for transport to market.  All of these morels are also dried, often on-site, or in large gas-fired driers, for preservation and enjoyment in the off-months.

 Forest Mushrooms flies in morels, as well as many other wild-harvested mushrooms, every few days all year around.  We inspect and sort them, and then market them to both the foodservice and grocery store markets.  We are licensed as “Wild Mushroom Experts” by the State of Minnesota, which is required for the commercial handling and sale of wild-harvested mushrooms.  Any establishment  in Minnesota that sells wild-harvested mushrooms of any type, including morels, to the public, needs to be able to show that they were obtained through a state-licensed Wild Mushroom Expert.

I do not know whether Iowa has any such requirement, since this varies from state to state.  But it does provide a measure of food safety and confidence for chains when they chose to carry these products.

 FYI, Forest Mushrooms, Inc. has been in operation since 1985, and we specialize in growing oyster and shiitake mushrooms (about 3000 lbs/wk,  all year aound) and in distributing all other specialty mushrooms, fresh, dried and frozen, both cultivated and wild-harvested.  We also have a full line of organic fresh mushrooms for both foodservice and grocery customers.  We do NOT sell to the public directly, but are strictly growers and wholesale suppliers.

Back to Cindy:

The annual Czech Village Houby Days celebrates the mushroom (houby is the Czech word for mushroom) and I’ve heard they might go back to using morels in their breakfast!! About half of the businesses in Czech Village have returned since the flood and more are hoping to come back in time for the celebration on May 15-17. Below is a photo of Jan Stoffer, of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, giving a tour of Czech Village to students from McKinley Middle School last month.

Jan Stoffer leads tour of Czech Village for McKinley students.

Jan Stoffer leads tour of Czech Village for McKinley students.

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