MOLINE, Ill. — Ready, set, HUNT! Ample rain this spring and now a warmer temperature pattern settling in will increase the morel mushroom population as we head into the beginning of May.
Morel mushroom hunting continues to be a popular hobby all across the United States. Thanks to social media, more people are joining in the hunt each and every spring. These funky-looking mushrooms are considered a prized delicacy in some countries. Morels can make everything from wine sauce to pasta and even soup! You'll typically find plenty of them at the local farmer's market, often selling for a hefty price!
These specialty mushrooms require very specific growing conditions that can't be easily duplicated, which has turned the process of finding them into the sport that many enjoy today.
Looking at the weather conditions that are needed for mushroom growth, there are two that stand out the most; the temperature of the air/soil, and the rainfall pattern. Ideally, morel mushrooms prefer air temperatures of 60-degrees or higher with soil temperatures between 45 and 50-degrees. Right now, our soil temperatures are right around 47-degrees, which is in the perfect range for growth. Air temperatures have been a bit cooler as of late, but a nice warm-up by the end of the month will also help accelerate growth.
We've also seen plenty of rainfall this month, keeping soil conditions moist. Pair that with plentiful snowfall this past winter, moisture won't be a problem when it comes to growing these mushrooms.
Some helpful tips on finding morels:
Forest areas that are open to the public offer a great environment for these!
Watch for a sloped hill: The side of a hill that gets more sunshine will be where morels start to develop first, especially south-facing slopes.
Watch for certain types of trees: Morels CAN grow on trees, especially elm, ash, poplar, and apple trees. They have even been found under a pine tree!
Look for worn ground: Burn sites and areas that have been flooded are known to produce quite a population!
WATCH FOR TICKS: You'll be in the woods after all. Dress appropriately and use a tick repellent.