MILLSTADT, Ill. – This is the time of year to search for highly sought-after morel mushrooms. A local business took FOX 2 on a successful hunt Thursday morning.
The day began with a half-mile hike into the woods.
“We’re going to get you guys in there and get you some morels since you haven’t eaten any. I figure it’s a good start to your morel adventure,” said Nick Koenig, owner of Wacky Morels.
But first, some words of advice.
“I like to get down low, especially if you’re in a valley like this, and look up and you can sort of see them sky lighting themselves. To where you’ll have the sky in the background and then you’ll see that figure like a Christmas tree,” Koenig said. “The more you look further away, the less you’ll find. So I try to teach people to look where you step.”
The mushrooms are a hot commodity and sell for a premium. Koenig sells his Wacky Morels at the Harr Family Farms stand in Soulard Market.
“$40 to $50 a pound is the retail right now,” Koenig said. “They’re very short seasoned only in certain areas. Anywhere between two to five weeks per year. And they’re a delicacy. Very rare to find as well, as a lot of work to get to them, and the flavor is phenomenal, in my opinion.”
Morels are often found in areas that hold plenty of moisture and near dead or decaying stumps and trees. They could even be in your backyard!
“Oh, there’s plenty of people who are oblivious to the fact that they could be growing in their backyard even. I’ve stopped mowing grass before and see them right there by the dead tree that was dying. Stopped and got off the mower and picked them,” Koenig said.
You can’t really transplant them to make them grow in your yard, but if you have a wooded area on your property, avoid disturbing the woods as much as possible.
“They come from underground in a mycelium web. It’s more like a three-dimensional spider web underground. And if the conditions are right, whether it’s temperature, humidity, soil hardness on the top, because they actually have to pop through that. All those play a role as well as the nutrients in the soil.”
Morels are very fragile and their short season is very weather dependent.
“If it gets too hot or too dry, it’s over. So sometimes your season might be two weeks long or you might not even have one; and sometimes you might get lucky and have a six-week season,” Koenig said.
But this spring has been good so far.
“This year’s shaping up to be one of the better seasons. Probably seven or eight years since I’ve seen this type of density of morels. With the good rains we’ve had this past week, things are looking bright ahead,” he said.