The outdoors has special meaning to me. I caught my first fish at age 4 and shot my first duck at age 9. Nearly four decades later I still get excited when I get to spend any time outdoors. A lot has changed during that time but the anticipation and experiences are still similar and just as exciting. It’s a great place to be....Read More

Thursday, May 2, 2013


Spring, if you can call it that now as I watch it snow as I type, is a great time to enjoy outdoor activities.  Turkey hunting, shed antler hunting and walking the banks fishing for spawning crappie are all popular pursuits in May.  And there are a handful of outdoor enthusiasts that can't wait for all the ingredients to line up when Mother Nature starts popping morel mushrooms.  The mysterious, secretive fruits are a delicacy and prized by many.

Hunting the fungus, while sounding a bit disgusting, is a popular pastime for many Kansans.  Those familiar with morels are out in full force right now reaping the rewards of a bountiful crop in many parts of the state.  If you haven't ever tried mushroom hunting now is a good time to give it a shot.  To borrow a phrase from one of America's favorite Duckmen, Si Robertson, "Hey, it's on like bing-bong, Jack!"

Morels grow in drainages along creeks, rivers and wooded draws.  They typically grow in association with various types of trees including cottonwoods, elms, cedars, sycamores and ash.  Areas where the ground has been disturbed due to cutting or trimming activities is good as morels often pop up in the disturbed soil.  Areas that have been burned are also good places to look, too. 

Edible morels (left) are hollow throughout the stem and fruit.
False morels (right) are solid and shouldn't be consumed.
Although there are thousands of different types of mushrooms in the world, some of them poisonous, the edible morel mushroom is easily identified.  Visually, it looks like a sponge and if cut longitudinally it's hollow throughout the main fruit and stem.  Harvested morels should be pinched off at ground level and carried in a mesh sack.  While it may help with spore dispersal, although that's debated, a mesh sack allows the mushrooms to remain fresh and "breathe" versus stored in a plastic bag.  Mushrooms can be stored for a couple weeks, refrigerated, in a paper sack and if washing is necessary done just before they're to be cooked.

Morels can be prepared a variety of ways but all of them should be cooked.  Sauteed in a pan with a little bit of butter they can be added to favorite pasta dishes, scrambled eggs or omelets.  One of the most common is cut lengthwise in two and dipped in a liquid bath of egg and milk and then lightly coated with flour seasoned with salt and pepper.  Fried to a golden brown in hot oil at about 350 degrees for 3-4 minutes the results are morsels fit for a king.

It's likely due to their wonderful flavor, their "secretive" nature and the fact they can't be artificially propagated, that morels are expensive.  They sell online for $20-$40 per pound and many people don't bat an eye buying a sack-full of fungus at these prices.  Professional morel hunters will dry the bounty they don't sell fresh and market them to culinary chefs in this country and abroad.   

The good news is some experts say the morel "season" is about at its midway point with several good weeks left.  But there's bad news, too.  That comes in the form of poison ivy and ticks, the latter which seem particularly bad in the last week or so.  These vermin come in all sizes and it's important to check yourself once you return home.  Ticks that have attached should be removed as quickly as possible to prevent the chances of tick-borne diseases being transmitted.

Morel spots are cherished and often shared only among close friends who are sworn to secrecy as to their location.  Finding new spots is a matter of logging countless hours, and possibly counted miles, of walking through likely-looking habitat.  But once a morel is spotted it's not often alone and others are nearby.  Spots good one year are often good in subsequent years.

Searching for mushrooms is a great way to spend a nice spring afternoon.  Finding mushrooms is even better!   


  1. GREAT article. I found a few yesterday when it was warm, and now we have this very cold weather coming in. In eastern KS, what would you say the season length is this year? What is the best time of day to pick them? Yes, the ticks are very bad this year too.

  2. The first morels I saw were in mid-April this year. Nights in the 40's and days in the 70's, coupled with good moisture, seems to get them popping. I would guess there are a couple more weeks of opportunity based on our spring. It varies year-to-year as far as a start date and duration. For example, last year temp's were so warm that people were finding them at the end of March and it was pretty much over by now. Best time of day? Whenever you can go! Seriously, good lighting helps spot them in areas where vegetation is thicker so mornings and evenings are good. Harsh light and bright sun (mid-day) makes it tougher to spot them, but there's no reason not to make a day of it if you can!
    Good luck!