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Food Safety Feature Articles


morel mushroomsBe well-informed when hunting and preparing mushrooms

Janet Hackert, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Harrison County, University of Missouri Extension


Mushrooms are in season. You do not need a license to hunt them, but if you want to sell them a licensed or certified inspector must attest to their safety first.


When hunting mushrooms, it is important to be 100% sure that the mushrooms you find are safe to eat. For example, morel mushrooms vary in size and color, but one identifying factor for them is their hollow, cone- or globe-shaped head connected at the base to a hollow neck. The convolutions on the head make them look very porous. The cap is one to five inches high and the stem is about the same height. They are generally found in various shades of brown from tan to black. A description and picture of morels (and other edible types) can be found on the Missouri Department of Conservation's website at


If it is a morel, as described above, it is safe to eat. However, if it is shaped and sized similarly but is NOT hollow, it is poisonous so be very careful.


If you find a large amount of edible mushrooms or grow them yourself, you may consider selling some. The state of Missouri requires that a certified inspector confirm that they are a safe variety for sale. Certification is done through the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. You can also contact Heather Benedict, Agronomy Specialist with MU Extension in Harrison County, for more information on the certification process.


Mushrooms keep in the refrigerator for only 2-3 days. If you have more than you can use in that time, consider freezing some within a day of picking to maintain best quality. You can find information on the best way to freeze mushrooms in the MU Extension publication Freezing Unusual Fruits and Vegetables (GH1507). Drying is another option and is described in publication How To Dry Foods at Home (GH1563).


Unlike some other mushrooms that are enjoyed raw, morels must be well cooked to be eaten safely and avoid the irritation to the stomach that can otherwise occur. The first step, and perhaps the most tedious, is getting them clean. All the cracks and crevices make for lots of places for sand, dirt and small insects to hide. To clean, rinse several times quickly and carefully under running water to remove dirt and sand. Then set in salt water for about an hour, changing the water often to draw out the bugs. Avoid over-soaking as this can dilute the flavor. Use freshly collected mushrooms within 2-3 days.


For more information on cooking and preserving mushrooms, contact Janet Hackert, Regional Nutrition Specialist, at 660-425-6434 or


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Last update: Tuesday, April 29, 2014