Mild March tempting Missouri morel mushroom hunters

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ST. LOUIS – The elusive morel mushroom typically sprouting in early April but spring’s warmth is tempting hunters.

“They are very popular. Very delicious mushrooms, but they can be challenging to find,” Dan Zarlenga, of Missouri Department of Conservation, said.

The hunt bringing its own challenges: where and when.

“Depending on where you are in the state, they can be emerging anywhere from the later part of March, but April is usually when you associate them,” Zarlenga said.

Look in wooded areas, forests, bottom lands, and along ash and elm trees. The spot of the season depending on tree roots, soil, and the weather. Mushrooms thrive in warm and wet conditions. They’re once found but never shared.

“Well, you know, I think a lot of morel hunters are kind of like anglers,” Zarlenga said. “They find that honey hole or special spot where the fish are biting or the mushrooms are erupting and they tend to want to keep it for themselves.”

A secret even among colleagues and friends.

“On television, I really can’t,” FOX 2 anchor John Pertzborn said. “I mean, it’s a secret. People covet their spot. I’ve known folks who have wanted to go morel hunting, and they’ve actually blindfolded their friends because they don’t want them to know where they are.”

Not a secret? Tips that can help.

“Don’t be afraid to get down on the ground,” Pertzborn said. “And you have to think like mushroom.”

Wait. Think like a fungus?

“So, if you are out earlier in the season maybe you might want to look towards south-facing slopes cause they get more sun,” Zarlenga said. “Soils might be warmer. Later in the season, you might find better luck in north-facing slopes once that soil has warmed up.”

And the amateur must look out for the fakes among the crowd.

“What you do want to avoid is something called a false morel, and it looks a little similar, but their caps are more like a brain and they’re reddish. Now, morels are delicious to eat. They are fabulous. The false morels are poisonous, so you want to avoid those.”

To learn more about how to spot morels versus false morels, visit mdc.mo.gov.

This Facebook page also tracks the morel hunting season in Missouri:

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