One of the sure signs of spring is beginning to pop up in Iowa – the morel mushroom. This year, mushroom hunters like John Waite of Anamosa are finding morels earlier than usual.
“This is the earliest I’ve ever found morels,” Waite said. “I’ve found just a handful of small ones so far, but my prior earliest was April 17th and that was six or seven years ago.” Typically, the morel mushroom season begins in late April or early May.
The recent warm spell could have something to do with the morel’s early arrival, but not everyone is reporting as much luck as Waite. The 31-year-old computer programmer started a Facebook page he dubbed The Iowa Morel Report just over a week ago. Today, the group has over 1,200 “fans” who share morel hunting success stories and photos.
Not everyone is willing to share their secrets, but patches of mushrooms are often found in moist areas around dying trees. Some Iowans will find morels in their own back yard. Waite prefers hunting in state parks. “It’s great to have a private place to go if you know a private land owner, but there’s plenty of public land out there and a lot of morels to be found,” Waite said. Morel hunters are also using Facebook to share recipes.
“My personal favorite is just slicing ’em in half, wash, sauté in butter, maybe add a little salt and pepper and you’re good to go,” Waite said.
“They taste just great at their bare minimum. We’ve stuffed ’em and made steak de burgo with them, which was excellent. Anything you can do with a mushroom, you can do with a morel.”
Mushroom hunters do need to be careful about misidentifying morels. So-called “false morels,” if eaten, can cause severe illness and even death.
Waite says true morels are connected to their stems and are hollow from the bottom to the top.
The false variety’s body hangs out over the stem unattached, more like a traditional mushroom. False morels are often heavier as they do not usually have hollow stems.
See more about morels on this website: www.thegreatmorel.com