When apple orchards bloom and oak leaves grow bigger, the season to hunt for morels has arrived.
Morel mushrooms begin to appear during spring’s warming days in southern to central Illinois and about two weeks later in northern Illinois.
Tim Schweizer with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources says there’s been plenty of moisture so they should be popping up.
“Mushroom collector collectors are out and when they find them, they don’t tell us where they found them. They’re obviously weather driven and as the weather warms up we’ve certainly had enough rainfall. There’s enough moisture that morels should be popping if you haven’t seen them yet.”
Schweizer adds that there’s been plenty of moisture so they should be popping up, but make sure you are permitted to get them if you’re exploring property that is not your own.
“We always do need to remind folks that while mushroom collecting is popular this time of year, you need to have the permission of the property owner before you search their property. If it’s a public sight, like a state park, make sure you’re not on the property until after 1:00 p.m. during the spring turkey season. Turkey hunters get dibs on those state park sites until one o’clock in the afternoon.”
At the beginning of spring, morel mushrooms are not large; the cap is between the size of an acorn and small walnut husk. At first, it may take a while to find them peeking out from beneath the leaf-layered forest floor.
As spring progresses, morels grow above the forest detritus, which makes them easier to spot. Dead and fallen trees make good hunting ground for morels, as decaying organic matter from the dead trees provide an excellent food source for the mushrooms.
If you really love morel mushrooms, a trip to Toulon, Illinois may be worthwhile this spring.
They host the Stark County Morel Mushroom Festival on May 4th.