AMES, Iowa – Flooding throughout Iowa this spring has damaged farm land, public parks and recreational spots, and has caused increased pressures on drainage systems. These conditions can impact this season’s morel mushroom hunting.
Regardless of the flood conditions, always proceed scouting and hunting morel mushrooms with caution. Best practices include:
- Avoid hunting in areas where animals have perished (for example, where fish have died as a result of flooding, or where other animals have died).
- Avoid harvesting specimens near places where fecal droppings are present.
- Avoid sites where potential chemical contaminants (pesticides, heavy metals, etc.) may be present or were washed off, particularly this year due to flooding waters.
When hunting morel mushrooms, pick only intact, true morel specimens. Make sure they are free from worms, slime or rotten areas, discoloration or any evidence of decay. Harvest above the soil level to avoid soil or debris. Pack specimens individually in wax or paper bags. Avoid plastic bags and any other packing materials and storage practices conducive to humidity and rots caused by bacteria and fungi. Refrigerate as soon as possible.
Morel mushrooms should be thoroughly cooked and not mixed with alcohol. Even though morels are considered safe to eat, they can, on occasion, result in allergic reactions or other side effects that vary from person to person, for example, people with suppressed or compromised immune systems, taking certain medications or suffering from medical conditions that may cause the human immune system to be weak (immunosuppression), or have other digestive system conditions that may be at risk of adverse effects.
Learn more about morel mushrooms with the publication “Morels, False Morels and Other Cup Fungi.”
Hunter and consumer awareness is important, and there are always risks associated with consuming wild morel mushrooms. Iowa State University offers morel certification class every year where instructors and participants discuss proper identification traits, distinguishing true morels from false ones and best harvesting practices including how to avoid any potential post-harvest contamination. The course encourages food safety to minimize the risk of food borne illnesses.
Photo: These morel mushrooms have white growths and are in the decomposition stage, and should not be consumed. Photo by Lina Rodriguez-Salamanca.