BY NICOLE BLANCHARD
Morels are prized by professional chefs and amateur foodies alike for their nutty, earthy flavor. The truffle-like fungi can fetch prices upward of $20 per pound due to their scarcity and short growing season.

So there’s an obvious element to the vagueness with which morel hunters share their finds — no one wants to find their favorite spot picked clean or otherwise disturbed. But the morels themselves are, by nature, a little perplexing, and that adds to the secretive culture around finding them.

Morels are notoriously difficult to cultivate, and the vast majority of each yearly crop is collected in the wild. But where exactly those wild mushrooms will pop up is largely a guessing game.

“That’s sort of the fun (of morel hunting), it’s an enigma,” said Jonathan Oppenheimer, an avid morel hunter who works as the government relations director for the Idaho Conservation League.

“It’s different than huckleberries, where you have your spot and you know they’ll be there year after year after year,” Oppenheimer said.

Instead, morels tend to follow wildfires, cropping up in larger numbers in areas that burned the previous summer. But no one really knows why.

“The ‘big game’ in Idaho and the West is in burned areas,” Oppenheimer said.

Coloradans Trent and Kristen Blizzard comb through wildfire data to offer a “burn morel map” of the West each year through their website, Modern Forager. A PDF of burned areas across 10 states where you’re likely to find morels (including “the top 11 burns” in Idaho) will run you $40.

“Because they only grow in recent forest fires, they are not such a secret location and we are able to share new maps every year,” the Blizzards said in an email to the Statesman. “The real secret is to know what burn is the right one to go to — which we suss out in our book and maps for people. Finding the correct trees, elevations, aspects, etc. is the secret there … but, frankly, it is not rocket science!” READ MORE