LAFAYETTE, Tenn. (WTVF) — For many in the know, spring is a good time for morning hikes and searching for treasure.
Specifically, hunting for the elusive and prized morel mushroom.
"Finding them is half the fun. It is. It's hide and seek. It's half the fun," said Troy Driver.
What's not to like.
A cool spring morning in rural Macon County, you can look up and marvel at the beautiful trees and warm sun, but where you really want to be looking is down.
"Look right here. I never would have seen that. I would have stepped right on it," I said while searching the ground.
I just missed seeing what Driver, my guide, refers to as a "dry land fish" or the morel mushroom.
"I've done this ever since the sixth grade. It's been a passion of mine. I just love doing it, love eating them, love giving them to people," said Driver.
Morel mushroom season typically runs from late March to early May. All you need to know is where to look.
There's no mistaking the unique appearance of a morel, but they do blend in.
Driver says the fungi typically surface among the leaves on a southeast-facing hillside around ash, sycamore and poplar trees.
"This is a mature poplar tree. This is where you will find most of the mature dryland fish near a mature big poplar tree," he said. "Another little trick I've learned over the years is you are better off going to the bottom of the hill and coming up looking cause you can see them better."
After about an hour we found dozens of morels — a great haul.
The morel is prized by high-end restaurants to sautee and for sauces. But most say the morel is best rolled in flour and then lightly fried. You'll find morels have a delicious, rich, nutty taste.
They are hard to find but well worth the effort. And like was said at the start of this story, finding them is half the fun.
The season is pretty much over for this year. But, if you are so inclined, try morel hunting next spring.
Morel mushrooms are so highly prized that the best places to find them are closely-guarded secrets. But if you follow the basic guidelines shared in this story you should have success.
Special thanks to Jon, Shane and Denesha Hesson and, of course, mushroom whisperer Troy Driver for taking Nick out in Macon County.