Here in Iowa the morel season is upon us. Along with fishing, hunting and gardening, foraging for morels is another way to help lower your grocery bill. You could also make some side cash selling them a farmers market or to your local grocery store.
North of us they grow on sandbars along rivers and west of here they pop up where there have been fires. I have found them during droughts and cold spells and in the pouring down rain, so you really never know for sure what kind of conditions and places they might be growing in. The following are ten general tips to help with your hunt.
- Make sure you know what you are looking for. Go out several times with someone with experience and check out websites and guidebooks on the subject. Picking and eating the wrong thing can be deadly.
- If you are not hunting public ground always get the owners permission.
- Soil temperature must be just right. Here in Iowa the ideal temps are between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Air temperature is also very important. In Iowa the ideal range is 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Check your local extension website for current soil and
- The soil you are hunting on should be damp, not dry or saturated.
- Look on woodland hills and slopes. Southern facing hills are preferred for early in the season because they get the most warmth.
- Search under trees that have died the previous year or two. Morels are attracted to the very fine decaying root system just below the surface. Most trees root systems are twice the diameter of their crowns, so don’t look only around the trunk.
- Look along small streams, close to the edge.
- Walk a grassy field next to a woodlot.
- Take a walking stick with you. They come in handy not only for those hills but also for pushing sticker bushes out of your way.
Some people like to use them in soups and casseroles, but I almost always just fry them up. To prepare cut them in half, dip in an egg and milk batter, then roll in flower or crushed crackers, and fry in butter. Salt and pepper to taste. Throw away any that are not hollow; they are false morels and can make you sick. If you want to save some for later cook them half through, lay them out on a cookie sheet and put it in your freezer. When they are frozen put them in a freezer bag and store for a special occasion later in the year.
The following are some morel websites that might be useful:
Morel Mushroom Evolution and Biology - Very interesting read. While there check out some of his other articles.
www.morels.com - They have message boards for each state that morels grow in.
Morel Mania – “The world's number one supplier of morel mushroom products.”
Morels and More – They offer tips and some morel products. While there your cursor turns into a morel with a big cheesy grin.
The Great Morel – This is an extensive site. Visit when you have time to stick around.
Do you have any tips or advice to add? Leave a comment!