Morel mushroom hunting, that glorious rite of spring will be coming soon in Northeast Iowa soon. It’s a time to put on your “Indiana Jones” hat and forage through the woods for that ever elusive treasure hidden under our feet. We each have our own theory of where we will find those delicious delicacies and our only hope is that no one discovered our precious gold before us! Plans start early, since spring fever is high in the hopes that this will be the year we hit the mother lode are dancing in our heads!
It has been said that the morel mushroom is one of nature's most sought mysteries. Morel hunting is seen almost as a sport as research says an estimated 50 million people worldwide hunt for morels. Who knew? Finding morels is not an easy task, they camouflage themselves in the environment. Even in locations that we know as "morel spots” from the previous year may offer no luck the next year.
Each year is different, one year early in April we hit the mother lode early, other years we searched for over a month to no avail as someone must of gotten their before us. Other times we just came up with enough for a meal or two.
Being a mushroom hunter can be very lucrative if you can stand to lose some of your bounty. Fresh morels can bring $6 to $60 per pound and dried mushrooms even more.
If you are a first time hunter, you should make your first hunting expedition with someone who knows what a good morel looks like because there are imposters and some are poisonous. I found out good spots to look for morels are in moist areas around dead or dying elm, ash and apple trees. I’ve been told to also look under living ash, oak, cottonwood and poplar trees as well. Research tells me morels also love areas with exposed limestone. Shoomer's like to hit their favorite spots year after year, and of course, keep the spot a secret from family and friends! If you are lucky and have very good friends, they may share if you come up empty handed on your searches. Of course, it depends how many treasures they have found too.
Morel mushrooms are a delicacy and can be prepared a number of ways. Many like to sauté their trophies in butter or olive oil. We dip them in egg, then in ground saltines and fry in butter or olive oil. They also can be frozen and kept for later use. If you have a hydrator, you might want to dry some to use on special dishes later in the year. One thing for certain, you must cook them completely before eaten. If eaten raw, you will become sick, since are a bit poisonous raw and can cause sickness.
May everyone's mushroom bag be full this spring, as we begin our search for the elusive, but delicious of nature’s treasures right here in Northeast Iowa!