IOWA, USA — They are the siren song of the spring woods, a tradition passed on through generations. It's also a chance to reconnect with the land.
We're talking of course about morel mushrooms.
Todd Whitman's first morel hunt was at 3 years old, in Wright County. Bountiful spots, however, are a carefully-guarded secret. If you want to hunt, it helps to have connections.
"I'm very picky about who I take where and when. I don't give up any spots," Whitman said. "If you don't have a spot for me, I don't have a spot for you. So if you want to go you got to take me somewhere too."
Some people call him The Mushroom Whisperer, but Whitman himself has a more humble opinion of himself.
"I am pretty good. But I'm pretty modest. I quit doing social media because I don't need it. I mean, I use it to study but like, for the secrecy of it. I'm very secret."
But even the whisperer sometimes needs help from a friend. One called him a couple of weeks ago about a morel tip in Warren County. The result, Whitman told Local 5, was a 500-mushroom haul.
And if you're wondering what a morel mushroom tastes like, Whitman compares it to ribeye steak.
Tips for morel hunter beginners (according to Todd Whitman)
- Be patient: "It's called Shroom Vision and sometimes it takes a minute or two or 10, 15 minutes 'till you find one or two to get in to the group."
- "My family's motto is 'If you don't go, you won't know.' So you just got to get out and go. I think everybody that just goes out and tries maybe look for certain trees, hillsides ... creeks and rivers are especially well."
- Where do you find them? "I would be looking for elm trees. Forest ground, I'm looking for moisture. I'm looking for the moss and I don't want a dry spot. I want something wet. At this point probably want something shaded"