The first thing you need to know about Jay Justice, president of the Arkansas Mycological Society, is that he signs his emails “Fungal-mentally.” The second thing—the fact that he really, really knows his way around morels, those edible, honeycomb-shaped mushrooms prized by gourmets—pretty well goes without saying.
When we asked him to share some of his morel-hunting ways with us, he told us there are three things to keep in mind. The first is where to go: Turns out the hills dotting the northwest quadrant of the state are our best bets. The second is when to go: late March through late April, usually, depending on the location. The third? “Well, you have to get there before everyone else does,” he said with a laugh. “That’s the real challenge.”
He elaborated, telling us to search for morels around the base of sycamore, hickory and tulip poplar trees, and on the trunks of decaying elms. He mentioned that it might be a good idea to check websites and message boards for hints as to where folks have spotted the delicate mushrooms of late before heading off into the woods. When it all seemed a tad overwhelming, we asked if he might consider taking us with him on one of his hunts.
“Sure,” he said, and then hesitated. “Well, sure, but I can’t reveal my best spots.”
According to Justice, here are the species to keep your eye out for—and one in particular to avoid: