Ok, we all have heard that April showers bring may flowers. That’s all good. The problem is, we can’t eat flowers. But wild morels on the other hand, are scrumptious. Which is why each spring the woods are flooded with mushroom-obsessed fanatics in search of wild morels.  Morels are arguably the best tasting edible wild mushrooms.

For the serious mushrooms hunters

In Will County, the grey morels have been popping for about 2 weeks. The yellow morels are just now starting to pop. We have been shrooms-009finding a lot of them in swampy stands of cottonwoods, in strip mine country, mostly at the bottom of the hills on the south or east facing slope. All this rain has been good, so we just need a few days (and nights) of 60 degree plus temperatures and they will really go gangbusters.

For the amateur mushroom hunters

Well, good luck. First challenge is finding where they grow. The next challenge is finding where they grow, that no one else knows about. Mushroom hunting can be very serious to some folks, where families even pass down their favorite spot through generations, and swear each other to secrecy. So if you find morels, it’s ok to say that you found some. You just might want to think twice before you tell anyone where.

Where to look

All ‘shroomers have different opinions on the best place to find morels. Here is what I have heard over the years – old apple orhcards, dead elms or old stands of elm trees, near large cottonwood trees, wet or “swampy areas, near cat tails, and field edges. The list goes on. You just need to get out in the woods and be persistent. The good news is, once you find morels the chances are very good that they will grow there again the next year.

When to look

In Northern Illinois, morels start popping around Mid to end of April and will continue until about the second week of May, depending upon weather conditions. A good rule of thumb is that when the lilacs start blooming, the morels start popping. All mushrooms grow better with moisture and warmth. So several warm sunny days following some rain showers are always a good bet.

Here are some great TIPS!

• Take a good walking stick when you hunt for mushrooms. It helps balance you in rough terrain, and you can use it to move branches and leaves as you look for hiding morels• I prefer to hunt mushrooms in the morning, as many will sprout overnight (especially if there are other people hunting for them in your area)• Most seasoned shroomers use a mesh bag or an onion sack to carry their mushrooms (the spores will be able to fall through the mesh to the ground and help repopulate).• Don’t take a plastic bag if you want to look like a serious mushroom hunter!  So if you don’t find any, at least you LOOK like you know what you’re doing

• When you see one, stop before you rush to pick it so you don’t step on other ones. Slowly scour the area around that mushroom.  You will be surprised how many others will magically “appear”.

• Take your time. You may even want to backtrack through the area where you found some. Just the change in perspective will reveal mushrooms that you did not see before.

OK. Now stop reading this and get out there and find some ‘shrooms.
Oh, if you find some, check out some great MOREL RECIPES.

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