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story.lead_photo.caption ContributedColumnist Dorothy Kleindienst and her husband, David, found several large mushrooms this year. These two were located in different areas. Spring mushroom season is in full swing in Mid-Missouri.

It is here! Springtime mushroom hunting season in Missouri. Ever since David and I were young, we — along with everyone we knew — looked forward to this time of year.

Vacations are planned around it. Most anywhere you look in the woods, you will see people searching and carrying mushroom sacks. There is a site on the internet for mushroom hunters in Missouri and everyone shares their adventures.

This year, however, like the last few years, mushroom hunting will require a different strategy for us — age and health reasons. It used to be we saw every hill as a challenge and knew other people probably wouldn't go there.

We can't climb those hills now like we did all our life, so we have to be selective about where to pick. There are so many fun memories of mushroom hunting and funny stories that we share over and over. Even now, the fun goes on.

Last year, I remember how David and I were crossing over a bridge when I happened to look down. I thought I saw that familiar web, yellow, mushroom pattern, and as we pulled away, I told David. He stopped the car and backed up. Yep, it was a mushroom alright.

"I'll pull up where you can get out and go get it," he said.

I said I was not going down there alone — there could even be snakes! He said he couldn't go because of COPD. He kept trying to get me to go get it.

"I'll watch you from the bridge," he said.

Finally, I got out and began my walk, fussing at myself every step of the way for even mentioning seeing it.

On the way to locate the one I had seen, I saw another one and picked it then another. Finally, I got to the spot and located the one I had seen. I picked it, then started back out. Again I picked one, and then being so watchful of snakes, I noticed leaves move in front of me.

I stopped and looked. There was a mound of leaves like the size of a coffee cup moving. Wind? I was curious and kicked the pile with my foot. It was a big, white, untouched by sunlight, mushroom! Did I just witness something here?

We weren't sure if this was still in the conservation area, so sadly, I did not go look for any more mushrooms there. And without the competition, it isn't quite the same. The finding is as fun as the eating. Well, almost.

Wild morel mushrooms have a delicate flavor like nothing else. Everyone has their own way of fixing these delicacies, I suppose. But I have to admit, I cringe when I read some of the ways. Some people dip in egg and cracker crumbs, some stir in onions or garlic, etc.

I always wonder why they don't just buy some in town. And do not soak them! They will get all soft and loose flavor. Only wash them off when it's time to fry. If they are older and have picked up those tiny bugs, you can wash them in salt water.

Next toss them in flour, salt and pepper. You do not need other seasonings. Then fry them in cooking oil, not butter! You want to preserve that wonderful flavor of the mushroom.

I have to agree with someone who said mushroom hunters are strange people. My dear husband is the kind of man who is very protective. As we were expecting our third son, he treated me like a fragile doll. Well, that is until mushroom fever got him.

We had gone for a little walk. We couldn't go far. Had two little boys and one due any day. "Be careful, honey. Don't try to get over that fence, don't climb over that ditch," he would say. He sure is a worry wart, I thought. How can I explain what happened next?

"Dad, Mom, I see mushrooms over there," one of the boys said. Then something snapped. All of a sudden, all four of us were racing, pushing and trying to get there first. Big, white mushrooms everywhere!

The boys still tell the story every year about how Mom rolled, big as I was, under the barbwire fence, and then came up running, and how Dad tackled her so he could beat her to pick the mushrooms. Lots of great memories are made every year, and we all look forward to morel mushroom hunting.

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