We midwesterners are fortunate to be surrounded by primo morel-hunting terrain—that is, if you know when, where, and how to look for the deeply wrinkled, acorn-sized, deliciously nutty, $40-a-pound-at-Whole-Foods fungi.
1. It's best to forage after several 60- to 70-degree days and 40-plus-degree nights, and a soaking rain.
2. A good sign from Mother Nature that morel season is upon us: blooming lilacs.
3. Morels crop up in wooded areas or on sunny hillsides near rivers or streams, and they have a particular affinity for elm, maple, sycamore, ash, and apple trees.
4. Be sure not to confuse morels with their poisonous brethren. The cap should be marked by pits and rivulets—but you should ask someone with experience identifying morels to look over your loot.
5. If this sounds too complicated, join the Illinois State Morel Mushroom Championship, where foragers spend two hours scouring 280 acres of morel-laden land.
To join the May 7 hunt in Ottawa, Illinois—or to sign up for a May 6 crash course in morel foraging—visit morelmania.com.