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.
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!