The hunt is on! Morel season begins in Ozark County

JR Evans, 1-year-son of JR Evans and Racquel Uhlmann, found this large morel mushroom while hunting with his dad Friday, April 3.

Sisters Kaylee Stehle, 7, left, and 11-year-old Kami, daughters of Tate and Lauren Stehle of Ocie, found several morel mushrooms on the family farm last weekend.

Denton Hambelton, 7, son of Jared and Sally Hambelton, was all smiles after finding a mess of huge morels while turkey hunting with his dad last weekend. “Turkeys got close enough, but couldn’t seal the deal, but he found something else,” his dad said.

Emmalyn Smith, daughter of Josh and Melissa Smith, holds some of the morels she and her family found in Ozark County recently.

Ozark County resident Abigail Bucholz whipped up this pizza using morels her family picked earlier that day. The pizza included homemade focaccia pizza dough. To make the dough, combine 1 1/2 cups warm water, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt, 4 1/2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons honey and 2 teaspoons yeast. Cover and let the dough rest in a warm place, doubling in size. “I made a cream sauce by sauteing onion and mushrooms in butter then adding flour to make a roux. Then I added fresh cream. We used that instead of marinara. Top with mozzarella and provolone cheese, browned ground beef or venison and fresh spring onions from the garden,” she said. For more morel recipes, visit the Missouri Department of Conservation’s website for wild edibles and game at Readers can filter the recipes by main ingredient, including mushrooms.

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. 

Ozark County Times

504 Third Steet
PO Box 188
Gainesville, MO 65655

Phone: (417) 679-4641
Fax: (417) 679-3423