Morel mushrooms plentiful after wet winter in northeast Kansas

The fungus is now among us

Staff photographer Richard Gwin was first introduced to morel mushrooms in the 1970s, and now he's become an avid mushroom hunter.

It’s spring, and that can mean just one thing: morel mushrooms.

This year’s harvest will be bountiful because of the large amount of moisture last winter.

My first checks of my usual hunting spots started April 1. Not much luck.

Warm weather didn’t help.

But rain on April 11 was just what was needed. And the mushrooms popped up.

I first was introduced to morel mushrooms when I came to Lawrence in the 1970s. Former Lawrence residents Kathy Hoggard and Chuck Bemis were frying up mushrooms and I was invited to dinner. Wow, what a tasty treat. A few years passed, and an assignment on morel hunters for the Journal-World got me hooked.

From my experience, the best places to look are:

  • Along a river. Many times, morels can be found near fallen cottonwood trees.
  • At the base of an old elm, particularly if it has dead limbs.
  • The west and south sides of hillsides. Look about a third of the way down, particularly under buckbrush.
  • In orchards and even along fence rows at the edge of pastures.
  • And even in residential areas.

One year I did a story and met a man from Overbrook who had a small terrier that could sniff them out. That certainly was fun to watch. I’ve come up empty sometimes, but my girlfriend, Candy Davis, has a knack for finding them — often at three times the rate I can.

If you’re heading out to hunt, don’t forget to dress appropriately for a trip outdoors:

  • Wear a long-sleeved shirt, pants and sturdy shoes.
  • Spray for ticks and bugs. They’re not bad now, but as it warms up, they will be.
  • A hat also is a smart idea. And don’t forget to slather on the sunblock.

Once you’ve brought your bounty home, clean your crop and put the mushrooms in a plastic container with a tight lid.

Take a shower — and enjoy your mushrooms.