Morel Mushroom Hunting Tips
Spring has sprung and so has the time for foraging. Foraging has grown in popularity for many reasons. It’s a perfect way to spend time outside when the weather is nice and it’s a great way to introduce youngsters to the outdoors and teach them conservation lessons.
The mysterious morel mushroom is arguably the most sought-after mushroom not only by foragers and hunters but also by high-end chefs. Delicious and cone-shaped, this mushroom is considered a delicacy due to its short growing time. During certain times in the spring, they are incredibly abundant and finding them is as easy as stepping outside.
*Please note that while morel mushrooms are easy to identify you should never consume a mushroom you aren’t 100 percent sure of.
When it comes to identifying mushrooms, it’s important to pay close attention to the details. Morel mushrooms can range in color from black, yellow and tan and can be as small as a quarter or as large as a soda can. What makes them so distinctive is the conical, wrinkly caps. A true morel mushroom is hollow from the cap to the stem and the cap is connected at the bottom, not floating like an umbrella.
The most important of the morel mushroom hunting tips is identification. This is the morel you're after, with a pitted cap and hollow interior.
False morels, mushrooms that you want to avoid, look similar to a morel but have caps that bulge outward and hang over the stem. They appear wider than true morels and are often shades of dark red. One of the easiest ways to check is if you cut a false morel in half the inside won’t be hollow but rather filled with a white substance. These mushrooms are mildly toxic and can cause serious complications so it’s best to avoid them completely.
The cap of this mushroom hangs over the stem and doesn't contain hollow pits, telltale signs this is a false morel.
When and Where To Hunt
Morel mushrooms are our fungal harbingers of spring, and when the nights start to warm above 40 degrees and the rain starts, they will begin to appear. Depending on where you live, the period to find them is between March (in the southern United States) through May (in the Upper Midwest and high elevation areas).
The best place to start looking is around trees. Elm, oak, hickory, ash and aspens are all trees that are known to have morels nearby. Morels also love to grow in areas with alkaline soil such as burn sites and apple orchards. Don’t limit your search to only these areas. You’ll be surprised where you can find morels growing!
Clean and Prepare Them
After you’ve found your morels, it’s time to bring them home to prepare them. The most important step to consuming freshly picked mushrooms is to clean them. Start by rinsing them in water for a few minutes. This not only cleans them but removes any lingering bugs or critters inside. After a couple of minutes, cut them in half and rinse again. Be sure not to rinse too much or they will get soggy.
Arguably the best way to eat a morel is to simply saute them with a little butter, but you can also add them to favorite dishes. When it comes to how long they keep, nothing beats fresh. But the season is short lived and you will more than likely want to savor them for as long as possible. They will last for a few days in the refrigerator and will keep for a couple of months in the freezer.