Spring mushroom crop behind schedule

(Above) In order to fruit, morel mushrooms need soil temps to reach at least 50 degrees. - Photo by Lowell Washburn.

by Lowell Washburn

For Iowa mushroom hunters, it’s been a cold, dark, and windy spring.  At a time when succulent morels should begin emerging in numbers, nighttime temps hover near or below freezing on an all too frequent basis.  As local woodlands remain void of emerging foliage, some enthusiasts are giving up hope.  If it gets much later, they say, there won’t be a mushroom crop at all.  

Although the frustration is understandable, the statement is simply not true.  No matter how long it takes, sooner or later, the morels will start popping.  The season may be brief, but rest assured that it will come.

I’ve been trying to sneak up on wild mushrooms for more than 40 years.  I’ve enjoyed early seasons and have endured the late.  One of the latest springs I can recall occurred in 2013.  The entire season was plagued by numerous weather setbacks, including record May snowfall for several Iowa counties.  In the northern half of the state, the first morels didn’t appear until mid-May and the peak didn’t come until the month’s third week.  

Although a long time comin’, the hatch was dramatic.  While scouring the hardwood timbers near McGregor on May 23, I discovered a single, closely knit patch containing 52 giant yellow morels.  Some of the more robust specimens weighed in at nearly six ounces apiece.  Other, though less spectacular, groupings were standing nearby.  For 

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