Have you been hunting?
Mushroom hunting that is! The rain does bring with it some advantages, opportunity for great mushroom hunting! Among my favorite mushrooms are Morels. These mushrooms can be found growing in Latham territory from approximately Mid-April to Mid-June. The best places to look for these mushrooms are in dead or dying elm trees, apple orchards, ash and poplar trees and sometimes even pine trees. What type of growing conditions are favorable for these treasured fungi you might ask? There’s no science to it, but daytime temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees with night time temps of no less than 40 degrees seem to be the sweet spot conditions in my neck of the woods. Also hunting the first warm day after a rain will promote the best chance of success.
The best way to tell if a Morel is “ready to pick” is to examine the cap and stem. When a mushroom is aged it’s cap and step will begin to darken with the tip of the cap going bad first. While lots of discoloration may inhibit the flavor of your mushroom, no harm will come from cutting off the bad spots and using the remaining part of the mushroom. Typical life cycle of a Morel ends at two weeks, but I always use the 50 percent rule. If 50 percent of the mushroom is still good, take it home!
To harvest the mushroom, you can use scissors or a knife. However a simple twist and snap will suffice. When you get them home, rinse your mushrooms in clean water, halve them and rinse again. Put them in the refrigerator with a damp cloth over top or inside of a ziploc bag. The most important thing to remember is to keep them damp or hydrated so they don’t shrivel up! To guarantee they stay fresh, use them within one week.
One final tip to get you started on your mushroom hunt, beware of poisonous look alikes. Although it’s been noted that boiling these look-alikes removes the dangerous toxins, it’s best to stay away from these mushrooms. Here are some tips to identify the most common look alikes found in the Iowa region. Without getting into too much scientific detail, take note of the physical features of this look-alike mushroom. Notice the brain-like texture of the cap, versus the Morel’s sponge like texture. Also note the way the cap connects to the stem of the mushroom. The easiest way to identify this false Morel, is to halve the mushroom and notice the meaty texture of the stem versus the desired hollow stem of a true Morel.
Best of luck on your mushroom hunts this season. Have more tips on hunting, identifying or preserving mushrooms? Have a favorite recipe you’d like to share for preparing mushrooms? Leave it in the comment box below!