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His interest has mushroomed

May 16, 1997

By LISA GRAYBEAL

Staff Writer, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Harold Mouer likes to hunt early in the morning, preferably after a warm night with some rain.

Though he won't reveal his favorite spots, Mouer usually finds his prey in thick brush, maybe hiding under an old elm tree or perhaps in an overgrown apple orchard.

When he goes in for the kill, Mouer uses a stick, maybe an old weed whacker, and his thumbnail.

The mushrooms don't stand a chance.

Mouer, of Anthony Avenue, has been hunting mushrooms for 46 years. He knows just about all there is to finding, harvesting and eating the edible fungus, though he still refers to a half-dozen mushroom field guides just to be sure.

"It's not something you want to rush into eating," Mouer said, who prefers hunting and eating the four species of native Morel mushrooms.

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"We hunt what we know to be safe," added his wife, Rue Anna.

Still, Mouer has been known to bring different varieties home at times, and even though he insists they're edible, Rue Anna makes her husband try them first.

Mouer learned from his wife's family, the Geesamans, to identify mushrooms.Their meals in the spring usually included the mushroom harvest of the day.

Hunting mushrooms is still a family affair, though Rue Anna said she doesn't go out as often now because of her fear of snakes and aversion to ticks.

But their only daughter used to go mushroom hunting and now her husband is learning, Mouer said.

Though he won't label himself a mushroom master, Mouer said identifying edible mushrooms has become second nature.

"If you're familiar with them, you can just tell," he said, though he warned against the "fake" Morels, which are poisonous.

Known to gather over 950 Morel mushrooms in just a few hours, with photos to prove it and a detailed hand-drawn map for future reference, Mouer said he relishes the hunt because it's so unpredictable.

"Last year was just a mushroom hunter's dream. We had lots of rain and lots of warm nights," he said. "And when you find them in clumps, well, that's a gold mine to a mushroom hunter."

After spending hours traipsing through fields and woods on Monday, Mouer said he was just about to give up when he found 50 mushrooms in one place.

"It's just one of those things. Sometimes they grow in one area, other times you find one here, one there," he said.

The Mouers prepare the mushrooms by cutting them in half, soaking them in salt water, then dusting them with flour, salt and pepper, and frying them in a skillet.

The Morel mushrooms can be canned, frozen and dried, which is fortunate because the growing season is short.

"I've seen them about as early as April 19th and then by the 6th or 7th of May they're over," Mouer said.

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