Morel Mania in Missouri

The morel mushroom. Elusive. Mystical. Coveted. As these delectable gifts of spring begin to erupt from damp Missouri soil, veteran and novice mushroom-hunters alike visit their secret spots with possessive zeal, hoping to find the mother lode.

Famously difficult to find and impossible to cultivate, morels are a prized possession during springtime in the Show-Me State. Visit the Missouri Department of Conservation Field Guide to discover helpful hints on finding and identifying morel mushrooms, and other edibles as well. First-time hunters should always accurately identify any mushrooms before consuming them.  A good rule of thumb is when in doubt, throw it out.

Take your passion for fungi to the next level and join the Missouri Mycological Society, a non-profit organization focused on, you guessed it, mushrooms. Learn about edible and non-edible mushrooms and enjoy weekend camping trips and festivals including their yearly “Morel Madness,” where members gather to forage for mushrooms. Attire is “mushroomy apparel and hats and anything weird.”

Typically, Missourians like to bread then fry or sauté morels in butter.  But don’t be afraid to explore other techniques that highlight their earthy goodness. Feast Magazine features an array of morel recipes developed by local chefs that showcase their distinct flavor including a leek and morel gratin which can be served as an entrée or side dish. Try this Missouri Department of Conservation fettuccine recipe which pairs two spring favorites, morels and asparagus.

Perhaps your morel foraging adventure left you empty-handed. You’re in luck, because at Fulton’s annual Morels and Microbrews Festival both fresh and fried morels are available for purchase.  Enjoy live music, sample craft beers and, of course, fill up on your favorite fungi.

Many Missouri restaurants feature morel-centric dishes on their menu during the season.  Make a reservation at James Beard Award Semi-Finalist Stone Soup Cottage in Cottleville.  The April 2018 Chef’s Tasting Menu includes a fourth course of beignet with wild mushrooms.  Blood & Sand in St. Louis also features morels on their menu and in their specials whenever they have access to them.

Fortunately, Missouri has much to offer in terms of morels for the hunter and non-hunter alike.  For a sure find, take a trip to Nevada, Missouri, and snap a selfie with a 30-foot-tall morel mushroom replica.  Be sure to tag your photos with #MissouriAdventure!

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