Near dead and dying elms, in many of Iowa’s forests, lies this season’s unclaimed harvest of morel mushrooms.
April marks the beginning of the morel mushroom season in Iowa, at least as it warms up in southern parts of the state. Morels will begin popping up farther and farther north as the temperatures begin to rise.
Iowa State University Plant Pathologist Mark Gleason says morel hunters should be careful to do their homework before setting out, “There are mistakes people make, particularly if they’re new to wild mushroom gathering, and I think it’s a little like buck fever in hunting, in that occasionally, somebody will shoot a cow on the first day of hunting season, thinking it’s a deer. So it’s certainly possible to make a mistake, and people end up in hospital emergency rooms every year, because they’ve mistaken morels, which are safe to eat, for other mushrooms that aren’t safe, and can cause severe health problems, and even kill you.”
Gleason says morels are a little different, “People have tried this, and believe me, I train people who are morel hunters, and this is a dream of many of them, a fevered dream; that they can figure out how to cultivate morels. And with many other wild mushrooms, people have figured outsystems. Nobody has really figured that out to make it work consistently with morels. Why? Well, if we knew the answer to that question we would know how to overcome the problem. But I think that’s part of the appeal, that this is the untamed mushroom; the wild mustang of morels, that nobody can tame. Others have been tamed. Not this one.”