Grit Blogs > Arrows and Minnows

Morel Mushrooms Under Dead Elm Trees

By Caleb Regan, Managing Editor

Tags: wildlife, fungi, landscape, elm tree, wild food,

A portrait of the author, Caleb ReganMorel mushrooms, and the hunting of this genus, are two of my mother’s favorite things. It even makes spring that much better. From an early age, I remember heading out on horseback – or my mom heading out on horseback alone – and returning with IGA grocery bags full of the sponge-like, porous plant that was, and still is, a delicacy in our home.

There was nothing better than a mess of morels, floured and fried, to go along with a fresh mess of spring, cold-water fish.

Later on, after we’d left the farm, I lived with my mom for the summer before leaving for college, and it was during that summer that she showed me her secret to hunting morel mushrooms – dead elm trees. It had never been brought up when I was a boy, since we had our spots on the farm and they seldom disappointed.

Her tactics during that summer still bring a smile to my face. Driving around, parking and walking to dead elms spotted from a distance, she’d mention the “Spirit World” as we approached. The Spirit World was her equivalent of being in a very attentive zone, scouring the forest floor. It was in this zone that we’d be as we thoroughly searched the timber floor. Once you found that first morel, more were sure to be in the vicinity.

Morel mushroom in early springThe sunlight hitting the mushrooms makes them almost translucent. Also, the time of year – the foliage is usually a shade of brown before spring brings everything to bloom – makes them difficult to spot.

After we’d walk and come upon one, and then many, the joy and fury of the search only intensified.

Nowadays, hunting is more difficult than I remember it being back when I was a youngster on the farm, and Mom would agree. The popularity is such where I’m from that if people have mushrooms on their property, they don’t let you take them; they want them. So, although it may not be the most ethical practice, blurring of property lines inevitably enters the mix. That meant, during that summer, longer walks with my mom.

What about you? While there are all sorts of wild theories about hunting morels, where do you look?


Caleb Regan and his wife, Gwen, live in rural Douglas County, Kansas, where they enjoy hunting, fishing, and raising and growing as much of their own food as they can. Caleb can’t imagine a better scenario than getting to work on a rural lifestyle magazine as a profession, and then living that same lifestyle right in the heartland of America. Connect with him on .

laurina trent
6/8/2013 2:42:56 AM

so how do you know if the morel is real or poison

hans quistorff
5/16/2013 5:42:28 PM

I was living on property with sandy soil in the orchard and a maple grove up the hill. I covered my planting areas with cardboard maple leaves on top to prepare for next years planting. The morel spore must have been in the cardboard. That spring along each seam between the pieces of cardboard was a line of morels. I had 2 5galon buckets full. I sliced them into rings and put them in the dehydrator. They lasted for a couple of years in closed jars.

5/3/2009 11:56:24 AM

I agree with Lori! I've lived in this small rural area of Iowa for only 23 yrs. so am a relative newcomer. Wildlife refuge across the road is like a Wal Mart parking lot this time of yr. but I just can't see those mushrooms....and NOBODY is giving even the slightest hints and information. I just want a few!!! Whine. Whine.

3/12/2009 6:41:15 AM

Caleb The hubby and I love morels, but have never had a great deal of luck finding them around here. When you find someone else who hunts for them, they are very hush hush about the location! No one wants to give away their secret morel hunting grounds!

3/5/2009 1:11:06 PM

Debbie, Thanks for the comment! Have you found any ginseng? That would be so cool to make your own tea with ginseng! And good luck bringing home that mess. I recommend minnows!

3/4/2009 5:51:43 PM

I hear we have wild ginseng down in our parts, so of course I purchased a book on it! I know I have seen mushrooms all over but not sure what type they are. It cracks me up when you say "mess of fish" - I am sure it's lingo I will pick up as I catch my mess of fish!