Last year was somewhat of an anomaly. By mid-March 2012, morel hunters were finding the sponge-like delicacies across Iowa when temperatures climbed unseasonably high in early spring.
This year, with the ground still too cold for the mushrooms to grow, morel lovers are getting a bit antsy. “Where’s the shrooms?” “I got the fever!!!!!!” friends of the Iowa Morel Report are commenting on Facebook. Don’t expect those commenters to actually share where they ultimately might find the elusive mushrooms, other than “in the woods.” Trust me, I’ve tried.
For those of you hoping for a sure bet, I talked to Josh Osborn of Blue’s Best Mushrooms on Saturday at the indoor Mount Vernon Farmers Market. His wife, Nikki, was busy that day in Cedar Rapids at the NewBo City Market.
Both were selling white button, portabella, and other varieties of mushrooms grown at their Vinton business, as well as a hot new item: Morel Mushroom Grow Kits. For $20, Josh says buyers should be able to harvest up to 100 small grey morels if they follow directions that come with the kit.
“Right now is the perfect time for planting,” he said, on April 6. He estimated that window would be open to plant the mycelium for about two more weeks before the odds at producing a “crop” of morels would wither.
“They work really well,” Josh said of the kits. “I would be surprised if they don’t get a decent crop this spring.”
If the kits have piqued your interest, try the next indoor Mount Vernon Farmers Market, on April 20, or the NewBo City Market next Saturday. Better yet, give Josh at call at (319) 334-8983 to make sure the kits are still in stock. He added that the kits are expensive to ship, so it’s better to find them at the markets.
As for me, I’ll have to rely on the morel support of my good buddy, Dave, who has been my “source” for the ‘shrooms the past few years. Dave said last year was not only early, but a poor harvest for morels, with an especially dry spring. “I had to look and look and look for what I found,” he said. As far as where he looked, I am not at liberty to say, other than “in the woods.”