Minnesota designated the morel mushroom ( morchella esculenta ) as the official state mushroom in 1984. These delicious mushrooms are cone-shaped with pitted, spongy heads and are considered a rare delicacy by mushroom hunters. Morel mushrooms are creamy tan or shades of brown and gray (they darken as they age) and are found more commonly in southeastern Minnesota than in other parts of the state.
Fungi are everywhere, on the sides of footpaths, amid bracken, sprouting on trees, clinging to stumps. Gabriel squeals from afar; “I’ve found an enormous one.” He spears it with a stick and comes running. The cap is tan and flat.
It was by all accounts a great success, culminating in a grand fungal dinner. The Woolhope Club’s outings became an annual fixture, attended by many of the great biological luminaries of the day, including Charles Darwin’s geological mentor, Sir Charles Lyell. Its dinners were the subject of cartoons in the Gardener’s Chronicle: Pickwickian scenes of merriment amid sizzling puffballs and steaming urns of blewits. The idea caught on elsewhere, particularly, for some reason, in Yorkshire. By 1895, there were enough advanced fungal enthusiasts to form a national society, the British Mycological Society. Every year since then, the society has run a spring and an autumn foray and even, for a while, an annual truffle hunt.