It’s harvest season once again in Iowa, for hunters of the elusive but tasty morel mushroom. Naturalist Lewis Major says he grew up picking the tasty fungus in Missouri and they grow all across this region. Still, he says, they can be scarce and hard to spot. He laughs that he’d be a very sought-after person if he could answer the question “Where do you find them?”
He advised woodlands may be a good bet. He says a good place to look for the fungus is around dead trees where lots of rotted bark and wood are decomposing, and if it’s moist it’s also a good place for some types of fungus to grow. He says he’s also found them growing in sand along creeks, in people’s backyards in the middle of the city, on the open prairie, in grasslands. He notes with irony that as soon as he recommends looking in a moist woodland he’ll also have to admit you can find the mushrooms growing in a roadside ditch.
Major says morels can grow almost anywhere, but the novice may have the best luck searching in a shady wooded spot. Challenged to describe the modest mushroom to someone not familiar with it, Major called them “kind of brainy-looking.”
Major says to him they look kind of like a sponge, with lots of deep pits and lobes. There are different species and stages of growth but mostly he says they range from a kind of grey color to an “olive yellow.” He warns there are false morels, and some that aren’t edible for some people, so you should always make sure you’ve positively identified the mushroom before you eat it.