Have you ever wondered where Morel mushrooms grow? Morels grow throughout North America, and there are some fantastic hunting spots right here in Shawnee Forest Country of Southernmost Illinois. They can be found around dead Elms, Poplar trees, Old Ash and Apple trees, and various other places. They love rain and cool nights followed by warmer temperatures. Morels in the gourmet world are considered a delicacy.
The Morel mushroom comes in several different varieties. The most common seems to be the yellow Morel followed by the grey Morel. These mushrooms can appear as early as February and have been spotted through the month of June, but April is generally the best month. They can appear to grow overnight, so a good site can produce Morels over and over again during a season. The Giant City State Park has a program coming up Saturday, April 11, 2020, 1-2:30pm “The Mysterious Morel Mushroom”. Park Volunteer, photographer, and local nature enthusiast, Gretchen Steele, has some great tips to help you find the sometimes hard to locate Morel. After a brief presentation, head out to the field for a small hike. While you many not find any mushrooms, participants will have a chance to learn more about what makes a good mushroom habitat. Call 618-457-4836.
Giant City Visitor Center offers books for sale about mushroom hunting. Private guided mushroom hunts with a certified mycologist are offered at the Garden of the Gods Outpost
Morels should never be eaten raw because of a natural toxin they produce. They have evil cousins called false Morels, which can be toxic and poisonous. On your first hunt, make sure to go with an experienced Morel hunter and carry a good Morel identification book. If you are uncertain whether it is a Morel or not, leave it be.
Internationally known Chef Lasse Sorensen, owner of Tom’s Place Fine Dining will be serving up some of these delicacies at his restaurant in De Soto, IL. If you’ve never had a chance to try these delicious mushrooms, make a reservation for the Morel dinner at Tom’s Place.