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Morel hunting

To hunt mushrooms in Nebraska is to hunt morels.

To hunt mushrooms in Nebraska is to hunt morels. Emerging for a few weeks each spring, these mushrooms are prized for their rich flavor. With their honeycombed cone-shaped cap, they’re also relatively easy to find and identify — if you know where and when to look. Read on for tips on identifying and finding morels.

When to hunt morels

The emergence of morel mushrooms varies from year to year with the advance of spring weather, soil temperature and moisture. According to most mycologists, ground temperature for morels to push through the soil typically needs to be fifty degrees at four to six inches inches below the surface. This generally occurs in mid- to –late, April, though morels have arrived both earlier and later. Many hunters heed old-time advice and head to the woods when the lilacs bloom.

Morels ordinarily appear for a two to three week period, if not a bit longer, depending on conditions. Individually, a morel mushroom emerges, grows, and dries within about four to six days.

Where to hunt morels

Along the Missouri River, avid morel mushroom hunters key into jack-in-the-pulpits, May-apples, ferns and phlox. Morel mushrooms are often found amid these plants in the same combination of soil, moisture, slope and sunlight preferred by the mushrooms.

To scout for early season morels, a seeker of the treasured fungi needs to check the south-facing slopes of woodlands with loose soils and high humidity where sunlight can penetrate to the ground near decaying organic matter (vegetation). Search an area until you find one or two, then slow down and more carefully scour the area. Always get permission before hunting morels on private land.

Public lands reminder

State parks, state recreation areas and wildlife management areas managed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission are open to the public for mushroom hunting. Properties owned by other state and federal agencies may have other requirements, including permits to harvest. Mushroom hunters hoping to look on private property MUST FIRST get permission from the landowner before treading on any property, whether land is posted as publicly accessible or not. Know and respect property boundary fences.

Remember: It also is illegal to park at bridges along public roadways. Those kayaking or air boating are reminded that river sandbars and woodlands are nearly all privately-owned, and permission must be gained to look for morels on these areas.

Morel recipes

Many morel hunters swear by one of two ways of preparing morels — breading and frying, or sauteing in some butter and herbs. For those looking for a new twist on morel preparation, here are recipes from Nebraskaland’s Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley.

Hunting other mushrooms in Nebraska

Once the morel season is over, many mushroom hunters assume the mushroom season is over, but it’s not. In fact, it’s just getting started. NEBRASKAland’s Julie Geiser wrote about the many varieties of edible mushrooms available in Nebraska, where to find them, and how to prepare them.

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