This is the week, experts say. It's time to drop everything, grab your favorite skillet, and head for the Iowa woodlands. This year's crop of morel mushrooms has emerged, and this spring's harvest is predicted to be short and sweet.
It's been a late spring. Combine that with unusually cool but dry weather and it's definitely not the sort of climate that brings on a bumper crop of morels.
But conditions are currently showing a marked change for the better says Art Slater, a Dubuque native and 17-season-veteran of the spring mushroom slopes.
"Things are picking up and success has really improved during the past week," says Slater. "Now that we've received sufficient rainfall and warming temps across most of the state, morels are starting to appear just about everywhere.
"The smaller gray morels are the first to show each spring and the larger yellows come a week or two later," said Slater. "I found my first good batch of grays about a week ago in south central Iowa. During the past few days, I've been getting reports of people finding nice sized yellows from around Davenport and near Des Moines. From what I'm hearing, it sounds as if Dubuque is more or less the dividing line with people finding yellow morels south of there, and pretty much all grays to north. For those 'who follow the hatch,' I think the hunting will continue to be productive for at least another week or so in northern Iowa.
"I think a lot of people became discouraged because they didn't find all that many morels early on," says Slater. "But when the grays did finally start popping, it seemed that the numbers were about average. Now that we've had the moisture, I'm pretty optimistic that the yellows will provide some excellent hunting this season. I've seen it happen before. Things start out slow and everyone kind of quits looking. That's a mistake and you can really miss out on a lot of excitement when things start happening later. Besides that, who wants to miss being out in the spring woods smelling the air, seeing the flowers, and hearing all the birds? It's just a great time of the year to be out. Searching for morels is a good excuse to be there."