ST. LOUIS — We're in the swing of spring, and that means a highly sought after Midwest delicacy is popping up all around the Bi-state.
"MOREL TIME! With the warming, moist spring weather, it’s time to hunt morels. No permit needed!" the Missouri Department of Conservation said in a Wednesday Facebook post.
Morel season typically starts up in late March and runs through April into early May. The brain-like mushrooms are common in both Missouri and Illinois but are notoriously tricky to find.
The mushrooms commonly appear after warm, moist spring weather, with daytime temperatures in the 70s and nighttime temps in the 50s, according to MDC. They peak around the time lilacs bloom.
Morels can range anywhere from 2-12 inches and sprout up in moist woodlands and river bottoms. They are often found near elms, ashes, cottonwoods and even domesticated apples but can be found elsewhere, such as under both hardwoods and conifers. Areas disturbed by flooding, fire or logging are also great places to look.
If it's early in the season, south- and west-facing slopes are your best bet, and north and east slopes are better for later-season foraging.
MDC noted there are at least three species of morels in Missouri. Don't confuse true morels with false morels, which could sicken or kill you. Don't eat any wild mushroom unless you've identified it as a safe edible and have cooked it thoroughly.
In the photo below, the Yellow Morel on the left is safe to eat; the Big Red False Morel on the right is poisonous.
Most public lands allow personal-use mushroom foraging, but be sure to check regulations before you go, MDC reminded residents.
Foragers can check out MDC's morel guide on how to find and properly identify the mushrooms.