Hunting for Morel Mushrooms

Morels come in many varieties, but the edible ones all have the same general appearance.  The mushroom has ridges and pits and a sponge-like appearance.  Other terms used to describe them are “pine-coned” and “honeycombed”.   Their size is typically 2 to 8 inches tall.  Also, the edible morels are hollow in the middle.  With a little practice, they are easy to recognize from all other mushrooms.

Word of warning…there is a mushroom called the False Morel.  The surface of the mushroom is quite different and it is rounded and not sponge-like.  In fact, it looks rounded like a brain.  These are highly poisonous, but easy to tell apart from the edible morels.  If in doubt (which you should not be as they look quite different), the easy way of determining if a morel is a “false” one is to slice it lengthwise.  False Morels are NOT hollow like the edible morels.

Also, another word of warning…all morels must be cooked.  DO NOT eat them raw.  There is a small amount of poison in the edible morels, but simply frying them for a short time kills the poison.  While eating the morels raw will not kill you, it could upset your stomach.  But, many foods you currently eat can upset your stomach if uncooked…so treat the mushrooms this way.

Now, I hope the warnings above didn’t scare you from eating wild morel mushrooms.  If it did, you are missing out.  A little knowledge in the woods, and you can confidently pick morels to your heart’s desire.

Morels grow among dead deciduous trees, especially elm trees.  But, I have found them among other trees too, such as ash, oak and poplar.  But, by far...elm trees are the best placed to look for them.  Once you find one, mark the spot with a stick…and search the area.  If you find one…odds are more are nearby.  They blend in well with the surroundings, so you need to look closely.  Sometimes I have gone in the woods and sat down and waited a few minutes…then I smell.  The spores have a distinctive smell that you can learn over time.  If you can smell the spores, there are some around and easily within 100 yards.  But, you have to be at “spore height” to smell them, that is why I sit down.

As far as picking the mushrooms, I like to carry a small pocket-knife and cut them off close to the ground.  Being they are hollow, just pinching them and pulling them with your fingers will work fine too.  Right after picking, I like to brush them off slightly or shake them over the ground where I found it.  This could release some additional spores so they continue to grow in this spot the following year.  I like to collect them in brown paper bags (I don’t use plastic bags as the plastic will not breath) or in open pails or buckets.

Many times there can be a number of bugs in the morels, so I like to soak them in salt water for a few minutes as they don’t get soft in water like other mushrooms.  I them spray them or use a very soft brush to clean them…and let them dry.  Some people don’t like to soak or wash them as they “lose some of their flavor”…but I prefer to get all the bugs out.  I also cut all of them in half length-wise for easier frying and to be 100% sure they are the right type (hollow inside) and there are no bugs inside them.

For eating, I usually just fry them in butter and I feel they are the best that way.  You can use oil too, but butter is WAY better.  Another great way to cook them is to dip them in an egg/milk mixture…and coat them in Bisquick (or another light breading).  Fry in butter until golden brown.  Mmmmm, you will be amazed with how good they taste.

So, if you enjoy the woods and eating mushrooms…try Morel Hunting this spring!  Study and learn what to look for…and happy hunting!!

Spring is hunting season.  Morel Mushroom hunting season that is!

Morals are great tasting mushrooms and are the Minnesota State Mushroom (did you know there was such a thing?).  They are delicious and due to them only being found in the Springtime…they can command big dollars if sold.  I have seen them sell for $20 - 50 a pound!

Morels fried in butter coated in a light batter.
The many shapes of the Morel Mushroom.
Morels are hollow inside.
The edible Morel Mushroom.
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