The hunt is on! Morel season begins in Ozark County
Mushroom hunters across Ozark County are gearing up for the peak of one of spring’s most exciting events, the annual morel mushroom hunt. As the weather turns warmer and spring rains soak the ground, the fungi has begun to spring up among the moss, leaves and soil.
Three species of morel mushrooms are common in our area, ranging in color from gray to tan or yellow, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation’s website. They come in a variety of sizes, but most morels average between 3 and 4 inches tall.
They seem to pop up overnight, growing within 24 to 48 hours. MDC advises looking for morels in moist woods, river bottoms and on south-facing slopes. They’re often found near dead elm trees in old orchards or burned areas.
As with any wild edible, be sure you can identify morels before eating them.
Hunters should be extra observant to ensure the mushrooms they eat are not “big red false morels.” The website describes these mushrooms as reddish brown with a convoluted, brainlike cap and whitish stalk that is chambered inside. It grows singly or in groups in mixed woods from late March to May. The cap is puffy tan inside, and the cap is fused to the stalk. The stalk enlarges toward the base and is whitish, the texture grooved to smooth.
In contrast, edible morels are more lobed and saddle-shaped than brainlike, according to MDC. Edible morels are also completely hollow inside.