The Ottumwa Courier

Wapello County

May 19, 2014

Hidden treasure

OTTUMWA — Yes, it's kind of like winning the lottery.

A mushroom hunter and her family cheerfully acknowledged that feeling after stopping by the Ottumwa Courier on Monday. In one lucky search, they'd found hundreds of morels totaling 10 pounds.

As usual, Iowa residents keep their mushroom hunting spots a secret. When asked, "Where'd you find them? We want to publish the location in our newspaper," the family laughed — a lot.

"I will tell you we found them all in one place," said Susy Fowler of Ottumwa.

Morels are just starting to pop, hunters say. A science teacher from the town of Keokuk scheduled to teach a wild edibles class in Wapello County last week wrote on Facebook to look for dandelions to bloom to discover when it's mushroom foraging time. A friend of his commented she waits for the violets to bloom.

Fowler isn't sharing many secrets. She and her fellow searchers, Teresa and Pat Denny, know the morels are valuable. In Des Moines, an Internet site listed them at $35 a pound. At a gourmet shop in London, England, they were nearly $90 per pound. And yes, the shop offers shipping to the U.S. via Etsy.

A couple websites on the East Coast list live Maine lobster at about $12 a pound.

So did Fowler know the five pounds of morels she and her family scarfed down in one dinner feast (after storing the other half of their find in a freezer) would have brought in a minimum of $175?

"Wow, that's new perspective for me," said Fowler. "I'll keep that in mind for next year."

— To follow Mark Newman on Twitter, check out @CourierMark

The recipe for a whole mess of morels: Five one-pound packages of crackers, crumbled up. Three dozen eggs, beaten. Butter for frying. And $175 worth of morel mushrooms, picked and washed. Prep time: "hours."

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