Hunters search for expensive, rare wild mushrooms in spring

While they can be worth up to $200 a pound, this type of fungi can be hard to find

Mushroom hunters search for morels in Petersburg.

PETERSBURG, Ohio (WKBN) – Self-proclaimed mushroom enthusiasts took to the woods in Petersburg Wednesday, looking to collect morel mushrooms .

Early to mid spring is prime growing time for morel mushrooms, attracting mushroom hunters looking to cash in a good crop.

One pound can cost $200. A bushel can be worth up to a couple grand.

The wild mushrooms have a distinctive honeycomb-like appearance with long, hollow stems and hollow cores, as well as a unique taste.

Steve Morlan hunts for the mushrooms and said they are not easy to find.

“Sometimes they’re impossible to spot,” he said. “Sometimes you’re on your hands and knees looking for them. Sometimes you’ll come across nice big ones that just pop out and you just get a huge smile on your face saying, ‘Oh, we got something good to eat tonight!'”

Morlan has been hunting for mushrooms since he was a young child, learning from his parents and grandparents.

Hunting for the mushrooms can be a tricky business. The morel mushroom is fine to eat, but there are look-a-like fungi that can make you sick, known as false morels.

Morlan said it is important not to eat the mushrooms unless you do your research, as eating a poisonous mushroom can be dangerous.

False morels contain a toxin that damages the liver. Symptoms of eating it include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, dizziness, headache, muscle cramps, jaundice (yellow skin), bloating and fatigue. In more serious cases or if left untreated, it can cause confusion, delirium, seizures, coma, bruising and bleeding.

“[They] will more than likely send you to the hospital. There’s also mushrooms in the woods that will send you to the cemetery,” Morlan said. “Your best bet is to go on the internet and do some research to see what a morel mushroom looks like.”

True morels have a pitted, rigged appearance. False morels, on the other hand, are wrinkled and brain-like.

Steve McGranahan, who is featured on the popular TV show “Fat n’ Furious,” was also out looking for mushrooms on Wednesday. He said the taste is out-of-this-world. He cooks them with butter and salt and pepper before eating.

“The first time I ate a morel, it was like a champagne flavor or smell going through your sinuses… It was unbelievable,” McGranahan said.

This time of year attracts the most people looking for morel mushrooms. They need a certain ground temperature and moisture to grow, which is why Morlan said they grow best in old, wooded areas.

“Morels are real finicky,” Morlan said. “If you don’t get everything just right, you won’t get any mushrooms.”

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