COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (KMTV) — Every spring, outdoor enthusiasts are "hitting the ground running" to search for morel mushrooms. Mushroom hunters brave the bugs and mud to find mushrooms to sell to farmers' markets and restaurants since it's a hot culinary item.
Avid mushroom hunter Joel Rybin likes to compare the search for a morel mushroom to a "cat and mouse" game.
"So there's a lot of things that have to happen for a mushroom — a morel mushroom — to grow. It's got to have a host tree, there's a couple of other things. You need precipitation. You need moisture. You need humidity and you need some heat," said Rybin.
The best time to search is right after the lilacs and dandelions bloom, according to Rybin, or when the ground temperature is above 55 degrees. If temperatures rise and stay above 90 degrees consistently, the mushrooms die off.
That's why the season doesn't last long. It can start in early April and can run until mid-May.
Right outside Council Bluffs, Rybin finds that this season is "prime for picking."
"It was really dry there for a while, and then we had an immense amount of moisture in a short amount of time. The ground really soaked it up and then the ground temperature was perfect for it. So mushrooms are popping everywhere," Rybin said.
Rybin also ships in mushrooms from out of state. He's licensed to sell them to restaurants and the general public. He just got 100 pounds of mushrooms flown in from the Pacific Northwest.
"The market is crazy, so there's a lot of high-end restaurants that buy them, and a lot of chefs that buy them," Rybin said.
This "mushroom enthusiast" admits he's prioritizing passion and profit.
"It is nice to get paid for your time and your gas and your effort, as you just saw. It's a lot of work to get through the woods just to find some mushrooms," said Rybin.
According to Michigan State University, morel mushrooms can cost more than $30 per pound during the spring.
Out of season, they cost more than $60. They're still a bargain compared to black truffles, which can cost hundreds per pound.