LINCOLN, Neb. – There is good news for foragers. The morel mushroom picking season is just beginning.
Some morels now are being found along eastern Nebraska’s river bottoms. In a few weeks, they will emerge in hilly wooded areas above rivers.
“Look for morels near dead and decaying trees like cottonwoods,” said longtime morel hunter Greg Wagner, public information officer with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “Walk slowly and scan the ground carefully. Where you find one, you should find more.”
Wagner said it is important for morel mushroom hunters in Nebraska to know they must get permission from the landowner to go onto private property, whether the land is posted or not. “Trespassers risk a misdemeanor citation and their mushrooms confiscated,” he said. “Know and respect property boundary fences, as well. Find out what those fences look like ahead of time.”
State parks, state recreation areas and wildlife management areas owned and controlled by Game and Parks are open to the public for non-commercial mushroom hunting. Vehicle park permits are required on state parks and recreation areas.
Morel mushroom hunters are reminded that it is illegal to park at bridges along public roadways. Those kayaking or air boating are reminded that river sandbars and woodlands are nearly all privately-owned and permission must be obtained to go on to those areas to look for morels.
Wagner has the following tips for morel hunting:
• Use insect repellent.
• Carry a mesh bag to keep the morels fresh while picking.
• Avoid touching poison ivy or stinging nettles.
• Do not disturb bird nests or animal dens.
• Take along a pocket knife to cut morels or pinch them with your fingers.
• The morel mushroom gathering period happens amid Nebraska’s spring wild turkey hunting seasons, so wear blaze orange clothing and steer clear of hunters and their blinds.
• Watch out for false morels; you don’t want to eat them. False morels are red, have a brain-like lobe, and are solid on the inside.
• Pack out your trash and recyclables.
After the morel hunt, Wagner likes to cut the morels in half length-wise and wash them thoroughly in cold water with a kitchen spray nozzle. Then a quick salt-water soak may be in order if the morels are dry. He prefers to sauté them in a skillet with butter and a little garlic.
For more information and recipes on morel mushrooms, visit OutdoorNebraska.gov/morel/.