Attention!! Hunters, get ready. Morels were officially sighted in Decatur County on April 14th.
Morels, known to some people as sponge mushrooms, are in the genus Morchella. They are included in a large group of fungi known the ascomycetes. The literal meaning of the word "ascomycete" is sac fungus. This is an appropriate name since fungi in this group form their spores in microscopic sacs. The spores of morels burst from their sacs, which are within the pits of their caps and are carried by the breeze.
So, where can someone find these delicacies? Many a mushroomer will give an extremely vague answer, if they give an answer at all. Morels typically may be found near stream and riverbeds, wooded areas, around fallen timber that has been decaying (look for dead elms). And don't forget to look within brambles and thick underbrush. Tall weeds, limbs, and grass can be brushed aside with a long stick. Once you spot a morel, look for more in that same area. Collect your goodies in a paper bag or basket (storing mushrooms in plastic bags promotes decay).
Anyone gathering and eating mushrooms should exercise caution.
- Be absolutely sure of the identity of each specimen collected. Some mushroom species are poisonous.
- Only eat cooked morels.
- Don't eat excessive amounts even though you are sure of the identity. Certain individuals might become sick (possibly due to an allergic reaction) after eating a mushroom that is considered edible.
More information about morels can be found in the following bulletins and website.
- Pm-1204 Morels, False Morels, and Other Cup Fungi
- NCR 129 Mushrooms and Other Related Fungi
- The Morel Life Cycle by Thomas J. Volk
Pm-1204 and NCR 192 also are available from your local county Extension office or from the Iowa State University Extension Distribution Center. Contact the Distribution Center at: 119 Printing and Publications Building Iowa State University Ames, Iowa 50011-3171 Telephone: (515) 294-5247 Fax: (515) 294-2945 https://store.extension.iastate.edu/
This article originally appeared in the April 19, 2002 issue, p. 47.