When rain falls and temps begin to climb, the morel hunt heats up. But you don’t have to hit the woods to score these magical mushrooms.
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Morels are marvels. The wild mushrooms enjoy a symbiotic relationship with deadwood. And no one has quite cracked cultivating them in a controlled environment to achieve their complex, earthy flavor. So each spring, foodies and foragers take to the woods. The scarcity of the mushrooms and the seasonal quest to find them only intensifies the lure and lore.

Morel mushrooms
Credit: Greg Scheidemann

For avid fans, this fruit of the forest is the paramount harbinger of spring. Some swear they can smell them in the air.

"There's something almost mystical about morels," says chef Lasse Sorensen, who helms Tom's Place in DeSoto, Illinois. "I have never encountered any morels more flavorful than the ones we have in the Midwest."

The short growing season peaks in April and May. A limited supply and foragers who fiercely guard secret spots can send prices to $60 a pound. Thus buying or tasting a morel can be its own treasure hunt. So mark an X on these spots and line up now to get your fungi fix.

Chef Dinners

Morel in Milwaukee makes good use of the mushroom when it's in season, typically late April until the end of June, says chef/owner Jonathan Manyo. Dishes might include a morel fricassee with lemon, chive, garlic and brown butter; pan-roasted northern pike with morels, asparagus and ramps; or pan-seared duck breast with morel sherry duck jus. The restaurant also hosts an annual Morel Dinner (May 23-25, 2023), featuring five courses of morel dishes with optional wine pairings followed by dessert.

At Eliza and Joseph Raney's Skogen Kitchen in Custer, South Dakota, try morels on soft-egg ravioli or other dishes. "We will have morels on the main menu for the season. When in stock, we add morels on any dish, as well as special tasting menus," says Eliza Raney. "We love our morels!"

Check with your local favorite restaurants to see if they offer morel dishes as well during prime mushroom season.

Harpole's Heartland Lodge

Guests can forage in the forest around Harpole's Heartland Lodge with a Mushroom Hunter's Overnight Package from April through mid-May. The rolling hills contain more than 1,200 acres of fertile mushroom ground. "It's kind of like Easter egg hunting," says owner Gary Harpole, who grew up collecting morels nearby. "And once you've experienced it, it's addictive." After the hunt, take a sunset hayride or make s'mores over a bonfire. Luxury cabins and cozy rooms start at $100.

National Morel Mushroom Festival

This big-time mushroom festival in Boyne City, Michigan, focuses on morel dishes and celebrates 63 years May 18–23, 2023. Activities are both fungi-focused (a morel seminar, a Morelfest Wine and Dine, even a chance to create a morel painting) and more broadly fun—carnival rides and a concert. Local chefs showcase the bounty in innovative creations at the Taste of Morels event on Saturday.

Des Moines' farmers' market
Credit: Brie Passano

Farmers Markets

Mushroom-lovers in Des Moines start searching for the morel vendors at the Downtown Farmers' Market just after dawn. When the cowbell sounds at 7 a.m., the rush is on.

Fungi fans also stalk the stands at the Iowa City Farmers Market, Indiana's Bloomington Community Farmers' Market and the Mill City Farmers Market in Minneapolis. In Michigan, try finding morels at the Sara Hardy Downtown Farmers Market in Traverse City or the Boyne City Farmers Market.

Want to try your hand at foraging? In his book Untamed Mushrooms (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $29.95), mushroom expert Michael Karns helps readers safely identify and forage for morels and other Midwestern mushrooms, showcased in lush still-life photos. Co-author Lisa Golden Schroeder features fresh fungi flavors in 100+ recipes.