Have you ever taken part in the Chaos surrounding a Morel mushroom hunt? If you live in the Mid-West region of the U.S. I would bet you have. It's a much sought after treasure that lies in the woods around the base of trees, in ditches alongside the roadways and along riverbanks under overhanging branches.
The talk around Morels seems to draw many questions for want to be hunters of this fungi. I thought I'd try and answer a few of them for you here on this website.
Where do Morel Mushrooms grow?
The hot spot seems to be the Midwest, Great Lakes Region here in the United States. Actually they grow in many regions of the United States the places they don't grow are in the desert and in the deep southern coastal regions. You can always contact your local County Extension Service or the State Wildlife Service to see if they have any information on the mighty Morel.
When is the growing season?
It varies from region to region. Typically it runs from early to mid April through mid June. A late spring will cause them to be a few weeks later and an early summer will cause them to end a couple of weeks early. Of course you can always grow your own. Mushroom growing kits are available all year round and will be shipped right to your door.
Where do I start looking for them?
If you're a seasoned hunter you already know exactly where to look. But if you're a first time hunter look for dead or dying elm trees, old apple orchards, old ash trees, poplar trees and pine trees. You're not going to find Morel mushrooms around every tree of the different species. You'll need to be patient and persistent. The longer and harder you search for them the better you're chances are for finding them. And a little bit of beginners luck could help too.
Can the Weather tell me when to start my search?
Yes, usually when the daytime temperatures are between 60-70 degree and the nights get down to the mid 40's but no lower. You won't have any luck finding them if you're in a drought or if you've had lots of heavy rain. You need for the soil temperatures to be between 50 and 60 degree. And don't be surprised if you find morels after a light frost.
Why Can't I find any Morels?
There's no guarantees even for the most seasoned Morel mushroom hunter. Lots of things come into play that only nature can answer. Sometimes the spores just aren't in the area that you're searching. There's another way for you to get your Morel Fix. As they do grow all around the world in many areas this means you can order them fresh or dried any time you're craving their flavor.
Do I need any special equipment?
No, all you need is a sack or bag to carry your treasure in. Most Shrooners agree that a bag that lets the Morels breathe is the best. A mesh bag is the bag of choice. And any small creatures that may be on the mushrooms will have an opportunity to escape. Stay away from plastic bags, they're not good for your fresh mushrooms.
How do I know when to pick them?
Look at the rim or the cap and the base of the stem. If there's discoloration in these areas it's not too late. Sometimes the center of the cap is gone, if the rest of the mushroom looks healthy it's good to take. I've heard it said that as long as 50% of the mushroom looks good take it. You'll need to trim the bad parts away when cleaning them. Morels usually survive just 2 days before they start to decay.
How do you pick them?
Some people cut them off at the ground with a knife or saw,depending on the size. Others say just pinch them off a the base. While others prefer to twist them off at the base. All these methods work, it's up to you.
How do I clean them?
Simply wash them off in cold fresh water to remove any dirt or unwanted pests, this should be enough.
How do I store them and for how long?
Fresh Morel mushrooms means just that fresh. If you're not going to eat them the day you pick them then store them is a bowl with a damp paper towel or cotton towel over them and place them in the frig. I wouldn't try to keep them longer than a week. Dampen the towel and place it back over them each day they're kept in the frig.
How do I cook them?
That's a very good question. There are many reipe books out there for cooking mushrooms. You'll just have to choose one and go with it. You'll soon find your favorites.
What is the False Morel Mushroom?
The False Morel is Poisonous. The symptoms are itchy rash, diarrhea, severe headaches, vomiting, nausea, extreme dizziness, and in some severe cases Death. The difference between the False Morel and Real Morel is apparent when you slice them. You'll always want to slice them long ways. The real Morel is hollow on the inside. The False Morel is white and meaty on the inside. They're dense and heavy. Don't eat them.
The Morel mushroom is sought after for it's delicate pleasing taste. The price of this delicacy is driven in part by the fact that they only survive 2 days before decaying. The celebrations for this mushroom reach far and wide. There's festivals, tours, art work, clothing, recipe books, fresh and dried mushrooms, how to find books and even wars all because of this one simple fungi.