Last year Sherry Hess of Marion felt lucky to find a few average to small size morel mushrooms during prime April and May fungi hunting season. This year, she and other fanciers are finding bigger than ever mushrooms, likely due to the extreme weather conditions experienced in the area.
“We’ve found really big ones, tall ones this year,” Hess said. “Some were as tall as an adult hand.”
Hess said the cold weather followed by rain and then several really warm days may have caused the edible fungi to pop up with more vigor than usual.
“It’s just been a really good year for mushrooms,” she said on Monday. “I’ll be out looking today again. You can never get too many.”
Morel mushrooms, not to be confused with other toxic varieties of fungi, have a sponge-like head and a hollow stem. Anything else could be harmful to those who gather and eat them.
“They have woodsy, nut-like flavor,” Hess said. “I like them grilled, fried in butter, or you can even stuff them with different stuffing.”
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database for standard reference, morel mushrooms are low in calories and provide a sprinkling of healthy micronutrients. One cup of fresh morels contains 136 IUs of vitamin D, and small amounts of vitamin B and other nutrients such as potassium, phosphorus, calcium, sodium, magnesium, and iron.
“I’ve been gathering them since I was a kid,” Hess said. “I like them because they taste good, and they are an all-natural product of nature — can’t beat that.”
Hess said the morel season was later this year than last, because of the cold weather, but she had been finding the woodland delicacies for three weeks already.
“The season is almost over and then we won’t get them again until next year,” she said.
A quick check on Craigslist revealed that fresh gathered morel mushrooms are selling for $20 to $25 per gallon freezer bag. The high price is due to limited availability, but they are available dried in some grocery stores during the off-season.