It's time to hit the woods in search of morel mushrooms - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

It's time to hit the woods in search of morel mushrooms

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WSIL -- The wildflowers are blooming and the trees are starting to green up. While these are sure signs of spring, for many, it means it's time to hit the woods in search of the elusive morel mushroom. 

Morel season is short, typically only lasting a few weeks in the early part of spring when sunshine still hits the forest floor. These mushrooms are highly treasured for their delicious flavor, the challenge of locating them, and "the hunt" is often a family tradition that goes back generations. 

"After several years of not exactly the best conditions for morels, mushroom hunters are excited about the 2019 season," explained avid mushroom hunter Gretchen Steele. "Given the weather patterns, abundant moisture in the ground, and the typical 70 degree days and 50 degree nights that are best for morels, 2019 is shaping up to be a banner year for mushroom hunters. This could well develop into one of the "years to remember". Early hunters are already reporting increased success when compared to the previous few years. "

Cool and wet weather is the best for morels and can prolong the season into May. Morels emerge when the soil temperature gets warm enough in the spring. Mushrooms can pop up overnight if the weather suddenly warms, and the season can end quickly if the weather becomes hot and dry. 

Once a mushroom hunter finds an area with a lot of morels, the location is often kept a tight secret. The mushrooms can be very unpredictable, and finding new areas where they are found can be equally as maddening. Once an area is located, mushroom hunters often return to that same area year after year knowing morels are growing there. 

Morel mushrooms can be found in forest woodlands, fields, river bottoms, and even yards. Many experienced mushroom hunters look for ash trees, dying elms, tulip poplar, sycamore, and apple trees for good areas that morels may be growing. 

Morels must always be cooked before consuming, as they contain a mildly toxic substance, which is destroyed in cooking. Frying, sauteing, and grilling are all common ways to cook morels. 

Giant City State Park and Gretchen Steele are hosting a seminar on mushroom hunting, including a trip to the woods to search for the elusive morel: 

The Mysterious Morel Mushroom
Saturday, April 13, 1:00-2:30pm

To register call: 618-457-4836

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