KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — The spring season is here, which means so is morel mushroom hunting season.
Usually beginning in late March into early May, you can watch for morel mushrooms growing on the ground. Morels have a short, specific growing season of just several weeks in spring.
According to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), three species are commonly found in our area and will vary in color from gray, tan or yellow and average three to four inches tall.
Morels are typically found under hardwoods and along rivers, the yellow morel, also known as the common morel or sponge mushroom, is the most sought-after wild mushroom in Kansas, according to the Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks & Tourism (KDWPT).
According to MDC, all species of morels in the state have stems that are completely hollow. Don’t confuse true morels with lookalikes that could make you seriously ill or kill you. MDC says it’s safest to consider all so-called false morels toxic. If you’re not 100% positive about the ID, don’t eat it.
Morels commonly appear after warm, moist spring weather with daytime temperatures in the low 70s and nighttime temperatures in the 50s, according to MDC.
MDC says south and west-facing slopes are good sites to look for morels early in the season, with north and east slopes being better for later-season morel hunting.
Morels tend to favor tree species such as elms, ashes, cottonwoods, and even domesticated apples, according to MDC. Areas disturbed by flooding, fire, or logging often produce loads of morels.
MDC said morels have also been found growing in all sorts of locations and conditions.
So where are some good places to go mushroom hunting in Kansas and Missouri? Well, the main thing to know is that it is serious business, and many mushroom hunters refuse to reveal their morel spots even to close friends and family.
Hopefully, if you’re lucky enough, you can find someone nice enough that will take you with them. According to Kansas Tourism, this is the best way to learn to hunt.
Here are some tips from KDWPT for legal and safe mushroom hunting:
- Hunt in safe places. Stick to state parks and wildlife areas.
- Be prepared to walk. The use of motorized vehicles on public lands is restricted to maintained roads only.
- Be aware of your surroundings. KDWPT says this time of year, mushroom hunters can expect to encounter turkey hunters and anglers looking to lure in white bass and crappie. There’s plenty of space for everyone, so when in doubt, move to another spot.
- Do not sell what you find. Mushrooms found on KDWPT public lands may only be harvested for personal consumption, and selling mushrooms harvested from KDWPT-managed lands is against state law.
- Use a mesh or breathable bag as a container. Allowing the mushrooms to air out after being picked will prevent unwanted sweating and keep them in tip-top shape.
- Cook mushrooms thoroughly before eating them. Some morels can make people sick if consumed raw.