COLUMBIA — It’s about being at the right spot, at the right time.
That’s how morel mushroom enthusiast Stan Hudson described hunting the rare fungus. Hudson gave a presentation about hunting and cooking morel mushrooms Monday evening in the Park Office Building at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park.
About 10 mushroom enthusiasts were there to learn about morel mushrooms and share stories of their own experiences while eating some fried morels that Hudson prepared.
Hudson coated the morels with a light batter of half egg and half milk, rolled them in flour and seasoned them with pepper and other seasonings. After deep-frying them, he added salt and passed them around for everyone to sample.
“All the ones I’m cooking up, I found at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park over the weekend, 10 feet off the path,” Hudson said as he cooked.
The presentation included tips on where to look for morels, though Hudson said he would never divulge specific spots where he finds them. Though it’s hard to predict where morels will be in any given season, they are often found around elm, sycamore, maple and willow trees, in addition to old apple orchards, Hudson said.
Hudson also discussed different ways to cook them – frying, sautéing, grilling or baking them are the most popular forms. Hudson posts recipes on the blog that he keeps about morel hunting. His blog, Mid Missouri Morels and Mushrooms, also includes videos, photographs and stories of his experiences.
One new enthusiast, Janice Gaston, was there to learn more about the process and took notes throughout the presentation.
Gaston became interested in mushrooms after reading an article about edible mushroom hunting by Maxine Stone in an issue of the Missouri Conservationist Magazine. She then found a five-pound Hen of the Woods mushroom, which she cooked following a recipe from Stone’s article.
“It was an experience that led us into great fun with mushrooms,” Gaston said.
Morel mushrooms are edible wild mushrooms that grow in the spring. They are dependent on the temperature of the soil and the amount and timing of precipitation during the season, said Johann Bruhn, an MU research associate professor of plant sciences.
“It appears that 50 degrees Fahrenheit is the key temperature for the soil, and if the warming of the soil is accompanied by abundant rainfall, then it is likely to produce a fruiting body – a mushroom,” Bruhn said.
Bruhn said it's shaping up to be a good year for morels.
Hudson said he knows it's morel season when he sees the first flowering dandelion growing in his yard.
Hudson said that to find morels, “You just got to get out and look.”