DES MOINES, Iowa -- Experts said Saturday will be one of the best days to hunt for morel mushrooms.
“We are right at that optimum soil temperature. So this weekend, I’m thinking you need to be out in the woods,” Alan Foster with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources said.
If you are new to the hobby or want to sell mushrooms there is one more certification workshop on Saturday from 1 - 4 p.m. at Iowa State University in Bessey Hall.
“In order to be able to sell those mushrooms legally in the state of Iowa, they have to take this three hour course. We have a presentation, we have a pre-test, then we go over some of the specimens. Looking at the difference between the true morels and false morels,” Lina Rodriguez-Salamanca a Plant Pathology Diagnostician at Iowa State University said.
It’s important to be able to tell the difference between the two because if you end up getting a false morel it can poison you.
“The thing I always tell people is when in doubt, throw it out. If you don’t know exactly what it is don’t pick it, don’t eat it. It’s just not worth it. The symptoms and the problems associated with eating a fungi that’s not edible are not pleasant,” Foster said.
Rodriguez-Salamanca added it also depends on the person and their sensitivity to certain mushrooms, which instructors will review in the certification workshop.
“There are people that cannot eat the white buttons that we find in the grocery stores. There are people that can eat small amounts of certain ones. So then we go over all of those things, so that people are aware that mushrooms can be poisonous or people can be intolerant,” Rodriguez-Salamanca said.
When collecting mushrooms it’s also important to make sure you are putting them in the right bag, because certain bags will harm the mushrooms.
“Wax paper works pretty good or paper bags work pretty good. Plastic bags are not good because they capture humidity and then mushrooms can start decaying really quickly. Then you can kind of imagine, collect mushrooms, pack them individually and keep them straight up in your basket as you go,” Rodriguez-Salamanca said.
Foster added that he puts his mushrooms in a mesh bag while hunting so dirt and bugs that may have been on the mushroom fall off naturally as he walks.
In addition to collection practices, it’s important to remember that you are sharing the woods with other people.
“Our turkey hunters are out in the woods, starting their seasons. They are in full camo. I highly advise morel mushroom hunters, even bird watchers, to wear blaze orange, eliminate red, white and blue. Don’t wear blue hats or red shirts or anything like that. That is the color associated with wild turkeys. Get that blaze orange on, get visible so if there are turkey hunters in the field they can see you,” Foster said.
If you are looking for a place to start hunting there are specific trees and areas morels will pop up.
“If you can find a grove of elm trees I would definitely look there. They also have a relationship with apple orchards, sometimes pine groves. I would definitely, if you find some disturbed ground, something maybe there has been a prescribed burn or something like that. I would definitely look there. If you spot one, I would mark that spot. Morels typically tend to be a little bit like deer, in that if you see one there’s likely more,” Foster said.
If you can’t make it out this weekend, don’t worry there is still more time, because morels tend to progress from south to north.