MISSOURI (KFVS) - Watch for morel mushrooms growing in the late spring.
Some people watch for the ground to warm to a consistent 53 degrees, others start hunting after the first week of night temperatures above 50 degrees.
How to recognize them
The top or cap of a morel looks like a sponge, with a shape similar to a tiny Christmas tree. Three species are common in the area, so morels will vary in color from gray to tan or yellow. They come in a variety of sizes, but most average 3-4 inches tall.
Where to find them
According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, morels usually grow in 24-48 hours. Look for morels in moist woods, river bottoms and on south-facing slopes. They're often found near dead elm trees, in old orchards or burned areas.
What makes them edible
The department of conservation notes that there is no test to determine edible versus poisonous mushrooms. The only way to tell if a mushroom is edible is by positive identification.
Watch out for folk myths. Ignore any advice such as "a poisonous mushroom will tarnish a silver spoon" or "if it bruises blue, it's poisonous." According to the MDC, these are completely untrue. Even seeing animals eating them won't work here.
You can click here for more information on how to identify mushrooms.
What you need for collecting
- Pocketknife or pair of scissors for cutting the mushroom at the base
- Basket or flat-bottomed cloth bag
According to the MDC, make sure to collect unblemished specimens. If you'd pass it up in a grocery store, they say don't pick it.
Don't overharvest or pick all of them. Leave some for the next person to find. According to the MDC, this also helps the mushrooms continue to grow and multiply.
Make sure to keep different kinds of mushrooms physically separate from each other, just in case, to prevent contamination if one happens to be poisonous.
The MDC also recommends you don't collect from "dirty" places. They say to think twice before gathering mushrooms from along roadsides and railroad tracks, or from golf courses, parks or suburban lawns.
- Store mushrooms in the refrigerator straight out of your basket. Plastic bags are ok to use in the fridge because the conditions are cool and dry
- Don't rinse before refrigerating. Wet mushrooms will deteriorate faster
- Most wild mushrooms don't last long in the refrigerator. Don't collect them unless you're ready to use them soon
- When putting them in the refrigerator, leave the storage bag or bin slightly open to minimize moisture collection
- If you have to, rinse your mushrooms right before cooking
- Lay rinsed mushrooms on a clean towel to dry
Cooking with morels
You can click here for more mushroom recipes.