One of the elusive prizes of springtime in Iowa is even harder to find this year. The morel mushroom has gained almost a cult following among some in the Hawkeye State. They tromp out into the woods each year beginning around mid-April, looking for the spongy-top fungus. Iowa State University botany professor Lois Tiffany, Iowa’s unofficial morel expert, says dry weather slowed the start of the hunt this season. She says hunters she’s talked too have a found a few of the small gray variety, but not many. Tiffany says we need some warmer days to really bring the perennial morels out of the ground. She says the weather really makes a difference in producing the morels.Tiffany says the morel hunt will generally begin in mid-April and extend to the end of May, depending on the weather. The morels come in the grayish color and a yellowish variety. She says there’s one way to tell the difference between the edible morels and non-edible mushrooms.If you split a true morel lengthwise, you’ll find a hollow bottom stalk that’s fused to the top spongy cap. Tiffany says you can find out more through a couple of publications available at your county extension office. One is called “Morels, false morels and other cup fungi,” the other is called “Mushrooms and other fungi.” Tiffany says connoisseurs fry their morels in butter…with or without a breading of flour.
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