Have you ever wondered where Morel mushrooms grow? Morels grow throughout North America, and there are some fantastic hunting spots right here in 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 gray Morel. These mushrooms can appear as early as March and have been spotted through the month of May, 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. Giant City State Park offers books for sale about mushroom hunting and has occasional programs that focus on Mushroom hunting. Morels can be found on many public lands, but be certain to check site rules. For instance, Giant City State Park allows Morel hunting after 1:00 pm during turkey season and morels can not be hunted within designated nature preserves.
Join Flyway Family Farms for the Makanda Mushroom festival – April 22-24, 2022 and again Oct. 14-16, 2022. Follow updates on facebook or check the website for dates of Mushroom educational classes and workshops.
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 in April 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.
Trails in the Shawnee National Forest are open, and lodging is available. See some suggested wildflower hikes here.