Morel mushrooms, rich in potassium and low in calories, must be cooked before eating. Morels contribute flavor and texture to a variety of dishes and appetizers and can be frozen or dried to preserve for later use. You can find morels in Missouri during the rainy season from February through June, but these mushrooms are usually the most plentiful in April. Join an experienced group of hunters to find this culinary delicacy, or look for them on your own during a spring hike.
Plan your trip around optimal moisture and humidity. Check with the Missouri Department of Conservation to find out when the last hard freeze is estimated in the area, and go on your first hunting trip about two weeks later. The average daily temperature should be more than 50 degrees. The best time to find morel mushrooms is the day after a healthy rain shower.
Hike through public lands and pay special attention to the ground near elm, apple, cherry, basswood or ash trees. Watch the ground as you take each step to make sure you don't step on any morels. Morels also favor south-facing slopes. Ask the Missouri Department of Conservation about any public areas that contain recently logged forests or abandoned orchards.
Drop a scarf or hat in the spot where you find a morel. Use that as a center point for concentrating your search. Step carefully about 50 feet in all directions from your center morel, using your walking stick to look underneath low-lying brush.
Examine each area where you see a single morel because the mushrooms normally grow in groups. Pick the morels with your fingers and place them in a cloth sack for carrying.
Repeat your trip—even if you haven't found any morels—later in the season after a warm rain. If you've found only a few morels, more may be growing later. Many morel hunters make several trips before finding their "mess," or healthy crop of morels. The results of each trip help hone your instincts.
Things You'll Need
- Cloth sack
- Map of public lands
- Walking stick
- Hat or scarf
Keep your morels in a cloth or mesh bag where air can circulate around them. Plastic bags can cause morels to spoil prematurely.
Because morels closely resemble other varieties of mushrooms and fungus, including some that are poisonous to humans, bring along a visual reference guide when you hunt to help you compare morels with the dangerous varieties of mushrooms.
- Keep your morels in a cloth or mesh bag where air can circulate around them. Plastic bags can cause morels to spoil prematurely.
- Because morels closely resemble other varieties of mushrooms and fungus, including some that are poisonous to humans, bring along a visual reference guide when you hunt to help you compare morels with the dangerous varieties of mushrooms.
Andrea Lott Haney writes articles and training materials for food industry publications. Having studied foodservice sanitation, nutrition and menu planning at Purdue University, Lott Haney has more than 10 years of experience as a catering and event planner for luxury hotels and currently tours the Midwest as a corporate customer service trainer and consultant.