Growing wild: Morel mushroom hunters can count on epic season

Spring sprouts the Heartland's most coveted mushroom.

morelOne of the first sign’s of spring: morel mushrooms.

They are treasured for their delicious flavor and the fun of the hunt.

Good news: naturalists believe this season is set to be epic!

Candice Davis with the Missouri Department of Conservation says the conditions are just right.

“The warmer temperatures and the adequate ground moisture should bring on the morels,” Davis said. “Get out and hunt now.”

In fact, this season could be more fruitful than ones in the recent past.

The best time to grab your basket and head into the woods is a few days after a good soaking rain.

But the big question: where do you find them?

Heartland Weekend talked with AJ Hendershott, a naturalist for the Missouri Department of Conservation, in hopes of helping mushroom hunters everywhere located the coveted delicacy.

WARNING: 

Don’t confuse true morels (Morchella spp.) with false morels (Gyromitra spp.), which can kill you. Don’t eat any wild mushroom unless you’ve identified it as a safe edible and have cooked it thoroughly.

The only way to tell if a mushroom is edible is by positive identification. CLICK HERE for a comprehensive field guide to what you can and can’t eat.

EXTRA TIPS:

  • Carry a pocketknife (or even a pair of scissors) for cutting the mushroom at the base. Some companies sell “mushroom knives” with a brush on the end for whisking off dirt, because adding only clean mushrooms to your basket will save you a lot of prep time later!
  • Bring a basket or bag
  • Collect only unblemished specimens. As with any other fresh produce, the nice, unblemished specimens are best. If you’d pass it up in a grocery store, don’t pick it.
  • Be a good sport. Don’t overharvest or pick them all. Leave some for the next hiker to find — and so the mushrooms can continue to grow and multiply.
  • Don’t collect from “dirty” places. You may find mushrooms growing beyond the borders of forests, but think twice before gathering them from along roadsides and railroad tracks, or from morelgolf courses, parks, or suburban lawns — chemicals from exhaust fumes, petroleum residue, creosote, pet waste, pesticides, and weed treatments are not what you want on your plate!

Plan to eat them as soon as possible. Most wild mushrooms don’t last long in the refrigerator.

Once you’re ready to cook them up, you must try either Morel-stuffed Puff Pastry that packs a fancy flavor in an easy-to-make appetizer, or pair this Black & Bleu Morel sauce the next time you cook up a prime rib or filet mignon.

We also suggest you take a visit to Tom’s Place. That’s where internationally known Chef Lasse Sorensen will serve up some of these delicacies on April 24, 2019, in a special four-course morel dinner.

The menu includes an ahi tuna salad nicoise with morels, lobster on morel linguini, beef wellington with morels, and a morel tartufo with berries.

CLICK HERE to make your reservation.

Expert tips to becoming a master morel mushroom hunter