Mushroom hunting is a seasonal hobby for many residents throughout Missouri and even a lifelong passion for some around the Saint Joseph area.
“I’ve been doing this for about fifty years now,” said Tom Weipert, local mushroom king. “Most people think there are only two types of Morels but there are actually 19 species.”
Warmer temperatures have brought out mushrooms earlier this year but many wildfires have limited more numbers throughout the west and midwest. Peak season falls between April and the beginning of May.
“In a good year you can find them about seven to eight months out of the year or from March to September,” said Weipert. “I generally tell people to look around Elms, Cottonwoods and Maples.”
It is often thought that morels can only be found on dead trees. These particular mushrooms share a symbiotic relationship with trees meaning they gather nutrients from the roots when the tree is living.
There are a few ways to identify a morel to assure you will not be taking home any poisonous mushrooms.
“We always go by, “Hollow Don’t Swallow,” said Weipert. “Go ahead and cut them in half and the step and cap should be connected to each other.”
The cap will have a conical shape with pits and ridges on top. The Missouri Department of Conservation recommends not eating any wild mushrooms unless you’ve identified that it is safe edible and has been cooked thoroughly.
“I don’t soak my morels because they are nearly 90% water,” said Weipert. “I generally leave them in a paper sack and that will keep them good for a couple of weeks.”
Most mushrooms should be cut in half from top to bottom to check for insects before consuming.
“If people are worried about bugs you can soak them real quick for about fifteen minutes,” said Weipert. “Just rinse them real quick and pat them dry.”
Weipert recommends throwing a wet paper towel over a box or paper sack when storing the mushrooms. This will allow for just enough moisture to be added without spoiling the loved spring snack.
The MDC also will host “Wild Webcast on Mushroom Hunting” from noon-1 p.m. on April 21 which will cover all the steps in finding and caring for mushrooms.