A couple of years ago, buyers were paying big bucks for a pound of morels. Kast year in our area, we had high water, which covered much of the places where morels appear, the high water came across cropland, bringing with it all sorts of chemicals, so the buyers in my area were really picky as they wanted fresh mushrooms, not those that had been submerged in a chemical bath.
As with anything harvested from Mother Nature’s Garden, you want to get them when their fresh, as once they’ve dried up, they get woody and aren’t as good as when they’re young and tender.
Because of these prices being paid, there are more hunters or “shroomers” as they’re referred to down south, there will be a lot of folks scrounging around the sandbars, river banks and trees, hoping to find a pound or two to sell.
Fresh wild mushrooms, when identified correctly, picked, cleaned, battered and fried, make for some excellent eating.
It’s a little early for morels to appear, although I did see a picture of one morel in a newspaper, maybe it’s the only one they found as there was no follow up to the story.
Take your time when hunting morels as they may be covered with leaves and other litter from last fall, and kneeling down from time to time and scanning the ground is a good idea as you’ll have a better opportunity to see the morels that are pushing up through the ground waste.
Morels are found in both locations, with the river morels larger that those found in the hills, with the hillside mushrooms being smaller and a much firmer mushroom.
In Nebraska and South Dakota, they seem to appear first on the sandbars and along the river near dead or decaying trees.
I’ve found morels at the edge of dying trees or on ground that had been cleared for farming, where depressions showed up where the dead tree had been uprooted and, on the hillside, growing in the grass or along a shelterbelt.
When searching for morels, because of the leaves and other litter from last fall, kneeling down from time to time and scanning the ground is a good idea as you’ll have a better opportunity to see the morels that are pushing up through the ground waste.
With the weather we’ve had in our area, it’s been so dry, there may not be enough moisture to get them started.
It hasn’t been the best conditions for getting out and harvesting some of Mother Nature’s bounties, as the colder weather we’ve had will set back numerous things, with the best hunting for them when there’s been some rain, heat and humidity.
Morels are easy to identify as they are elongated and wrinkled, resembling a brain, and not all morels are the same color, depending where you get the they can be a couple of colors, the ones I’ve picked by the river are an off white, while those found on higher ground can be a light shade of gray.
On a normal year, if there is such a thing, where we’ve had some moisture, humidity and heat, morels begin to appear around Mother’s Day, May 8th, and when the lilac bushes are flowering and if they appeared earlier, the heavy winds would have raised havoc with them.
Unfortunately, morels have a short season, often just a few weeks in some areas, and some years there isn't even a harvest.
Since these are highly sought after, some buyer a few years back paid up to twenty-five dollars a pound, who then sell them to restaurants, which are prepared and sold for big bucks.
They’re easily prepared and can be used in numerous ways, in soups, pasta, or a simple sauté, if you want to save the morels to use on a recipe at a later date, it’s best to dehydrate them.
Since they grow in sandy soil and make excellent nooks for insects and sand to hide in, once I’ve got them back to my shop, I’ll run cold water over them to get some of the bugs and sand out, then slice them in half and soak them in cold water for about a half hour or so which can firm up the morel and force some of what’s hiding in them to come out.
At our house, as they’re best fresh, we roll them in our favorite batter, fish batter works well and then fry the morels in a pan with cooking oil.
If you want to save them for later use, dehydrate the morels in the oven or in a dehydrator.
There are several ways you can dehydrate morels, one is in the oven, you’ll want to preheat the oven to 130 F to 140 F, then, place the morels on cooling racks or hanging them from the oven racks, you’ll need to and let morels sit until they are completely dry and brittle—about 8 hours.
If you have a dehydrator, once the morels are cleaned and dried off, set the dehydrator to 110 F, lay them in a single layer on the racks and dry for about 10 hours.
In order to bring dehydrated mushrooms back to life, you’ll need to soak them in water, by placing the dried mushroom a bowl of hot water, making sure they’re completely submerged, letting them soak for fifteen to twenty minutes, drain, allowing them to set on a towel to for a short and once dehydrated, then I pack them in a zip-lock bag and put them in the freezer.
Gary Howey, Hartington, Nebraska is a former tournament angler, fishing & hunting guide, an award- winning writer, producer, photographer and broadcaster and in 2017 was inducted into the "National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame."
He developed and was the Producer-Host for 23 years of his award winning gary Howey’s Outdoorsmen Adventures television series and the Host of the award-winning Outdoor Adventures radio program carried on Classic Hits 106.3, ESPN Sports Radio 1570 in Southeastern South Dakota, KWYR Country 93 AM and Magic 93 FM in Central South Dakota, As well as on KCHE 92.1 FM in Northwest Iowa. If you’re looking for more outdoor information, check out www.GaryHowey'soutdoors.com , and www.outdoorsmenadventures.com, with more information on these Facebook pages, Gary Howey, Gary E Howey, Outdoor Adventure Radio, Team Outdoorsmen Productions.