On the lookout for morels

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The day after a warm April rain is a good time to hunt morel mushrooms in Southeast Missouri. A piece of ground that shows no sign of morels on a sunny Saturday may come alive with them Tuesday after a rainy Monday.

Generally in spring, if the daily low temperature remains above freezing for two weeks, you can count on morels popping up. After that be aware of wet conditions that morels need to thrive.

The common yellow morel pictured here can be found growing on almost any ground, but most are found in wooded areas with rotting logs and much leaf litter. Morels are good to eat when fried like chicken or fish, crumbled and mixed in scrambled eggs, or fixed any number of other ways. Fresh morels have a delicate taste. Always make positive identification before eating any mushroom. Many kinds are poisonous.

The small slick leaves growing in clusters of three on either side of the morel in my photo are new-growth poison ivy. There are always dangerous things to be mindful of while hunting morels. Snakes and ticks are at the top of the list. A smart morel hunter will consider carrying a small basket to keep the morels in because they get crushed easily.

Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at semissourian.com to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by him at the O'Tenem Gallery.

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