It's a rite of the season as spring takes over for winter.
For just a couple of weeks as long as the rains continue and the air goes back and forth between cool nights and warm days, the spongy, distinctive morel mushrooms pop out of the ground offering their deliciousness to those willing to go out in the woods to find them.
Nola Lasiter took to one of her favorite spots on Saturday, April 13 and found 67 of the little brown beauties. She went back on April 14 and found more than 100 more, then her son, Joseph Lasiter, and his fiance, Keasha Webb, found 41 more on April 15 morning.
“They're usually out only one time in the year,” Nola Lasiter said. “Once it gets hot and the rains slow down, they'll stop coming up. We've probably got a couple more weeks of looking though as long as the rains continue and the nights are still cool.”
Morel mushrooms are one of the most distinctive-looking edible mushrooms in nature.
According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, morels are less predictable than most wild things, and their habits are maddening. They often grow where they shouldn't, and they don't grow where they should. You must enjoy the looking as much as the picking, or you will not last long as a morel hunter.
Many of Missouri's forests and fields contain no morels at all, the DOC says on its website. Many areas that look exactly like spots where you had great success before may not hold a single mushroom. It is easy to blame your eyesight or arriving too early or too late.
Nola Lasiter said she has a few spots she goes to where she's found mushrooms for years.
“The spot we went to today is in the woods, but it's also out in the open, if that makes any sense,” Lasiter said. “I've got a spot that's along a tree row. One year we found over 600 morels. I was giving them away, we had so many. I never thought I could get tired of fried morels, but I did that year.”
Lasiter said she uses mesh bags to collect the mushrooms. That allows the spores to fall to the ground as she walks.
She said she washes and rinses them thoroughly and for several hours in salt water to remove the tiny bugs that live in the mushroom's spongy flesh.
“I like to roll them in a thick egg batter that's seasoned with salt and pepper and fry them up,” Lasiter said. “I've got an aunt that rolls them in flower and fries them up that way. I like that too. Any way you cook them they're delicious.”
Page 2 of 2 - Joseph Lasiter and Keasha Webb discovered early on that morel hunting was one of the loves they shared.
“I thought it was just my dad and he was weird, but then I met Joseph and he said something about morels and I said, 'You know what those are?” Keisha Webb said.
“My mom introduced me to it early on,” Joseph Lasiter said. “Her dad showed her how to look for them and I went out with my mom and grandpa when I was a kid. Part of it is the taste, they're delicious. It's also a hobby, like fishing. Once you catch a fish, you want to catch more. Morels are like that, once you find one, you want to find more.”
Joseph Lasiter said spotting that first morel of the season is hard, but once you see it, your eye gets accustomed to what they look like and they're easier to see.