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Morel Mushroom Hunting 101

morel mushroom

In Iowa, it's the middle of morel season, and foragers are scrambling to hit all the local state parks and personal spots in hopes of taking home hundreds of the prized mushrooms.

For many years now, I've found myself right in the mix, hoping to find the jackpot. I've realized there's so much more to foraging morel mushrooms than just searching in the woods -- there is strategy.

Where To Go, When To Go, And What To Look For

Since seasoned pros are generally pretty tight-lipped about their methods, you are going to have to figure a lot of things out for yourself.

Here are a few tips to get you going:

  • Wherever there are elms -- especially dead elms -- that's where you need to start. Bark falling off the defunct trees nourishes the ground below. Morels love this.
  • Try walking bike trails. They're less crowded with mushroom fanatics and allow for easy movement through the forest.
  • The best time to go out hunting is after a good rain, when temperatures hover around 70 degrees.
  • There are different kinds of morels. The first to appear are small and gray. These are followed by larger yellow ones.
  • Search low and slow. Use a stick and get down on your knees.
  • They tend to cluster in packs. If you find one, you'll usually find more around them, so be careful where you step.
  • Don't forget to return to the same place the next day. New mushrooms can pop up literally overnight.

Sage Advice

It takes time and patience to find morels. Many newbies go out expecting to just walk into the woods and find pounds of them.

In reality, though, some days you can go out and not run into any. It's takes practice to learn to "see" them. You have to get out there more than just once per season.

Of course, when you do find a good spot, take care of it. Always use a mesh bag to collect your morels, which will allow hundreds of spores to fall back to the earth. This translates into more morels in the same place next year.

Most importantly, keep the location secret!

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