It’s never an easy outing—overland and far afield. But by the time most made the trek to morel country, this spring, the little buggers had been growing for weeks.
“I went out and picked my first mushroom on the 24th of March this year," says Colfax morel hunter, Dave Watson, "which is the first time ever that I’ve picked mushrooms in March.”
And wouldn’t you know it? This happened to be the year Watson and his friend, Brant Fox, planned their first annual “Morel Fest” in Colfax! It’s set for Saturday.
“Typically on the 28th, we’d be hitting the peak," Fox says, "I mean we’d really be picking them by the bushel-basket full, but this year, we’re kind of on the tail end.”
There’s no choice but to make due in a fine stretch of timber.
“What you’re really looking for is a tree that looks like that one right there," Fox points, "typically the elm trees are gonna be ‘V’ shaped…and you want to see the ones that have the bark that’s started to slip off.”
Many of Iowa’s elms have been hit with Dutch elm disease, which means finding those with peeling bark isn’t hard at all.
"That’s what you’re looking for, right there. Ummmm…the smell of sweet success!”
“The bark as it deteriorates into the ground is what produces the spores that make the mushrooms,” Watson says.
At the bottom of a steep hill, the conditions are perfect…
“There they are!" Fox shouts, "they’re everywhere in here, David!”
Jackpot. Some are in the open, others hidden by the already dense undergrowth…
Fortunately, these guys have been at it for weeks, and they’ve already hauled in over 125 pounds of morels…including a true giant that dwarfs a beer can. A payoff for hours among the thorns and deer ticks.
“It definitely gets in your blood, Fox laughs, "I mean look at me…I’m a little overweight, I’ll say it…and I’ll get up and I’ll walk four or five miles a day to try and find mushrooms. “
It’s said that we want most those things which are hard to reach...
...and by the way, those things will be even better when they’re sautéed in butter.