Out of all the edible mushrooms on the planet, the Morel is one of the most prized. It is one of the few varieties that has not had a commercially viable farm-grown option created. The following morel mushroom hunting tips will help you to find your own.
The Morel, also called True Morel, Yellow Morel and Common Morel, are hunted by many around the globe, gourmet chefs paying a pretty penny for them.
With morel’s extreme popularity, there are some things you’ll need to know before grabbing your foraging equipment and rushing out your door.
Things like when the morel mushroom season actually is, where to find morel mushrooms and the best place to find morel mushrooms. They can prove to be difficult to find, particularly if you’re following behind the crowd.
You are right to get excited; they do grow out in the wild, but there might be a little more to finding them, considering their extreme popularity. But finding morel mushrooms may prove to be a fantastic way to get outdoors and discover one of the world’s most sought-after mushroom.
Apart from the incredible nutty and earthy flavors they possess, they take very little preparation to perfect, making them a very easy-to-prepare delicacy.
The 7 Morel Mushroom Hunting Tips
Tip #1: Where do morel mushrooms grow?
Probably the first question you’re asking so you can make sure you live in a country where morels actually grow in the wild. If you live in a fairly temperate climate in the Northern Hemisphere, then chances are pretty good that you are close to finding morel mushrooms.
Morel mushroom hunting is popular in North America, China, the Himalayas, Pakistan, India and Turkey. Many gourmet chefs from some of world’s finest restaurants serve morel mushrooms in extravagant dishes.
They obtain these prized ingredients from the many that forage for them by hand. But geographical locations are just the start to hunting morel mushrooms.
You’re going to need a lot more knowledge on top of which country to look in if you want to know how to hunt morel mushrooms. They can be extremely difficult to find, hence why prices are so high for them.
Knowing how to find morel mushrooms will require skill, knowledge and determination. One of the more important questions might not have anything to do with where to find, but rather when to find them.
Tip #2: When is morel mushroom season?
Simply wanting to find morels isn’t enough. The popular fungus is not one to grow all year round and as such, will require planning to find. I often get asked, “When does morel mushroom season start?”
My answer is always the same. Depending on where you are located, morels can be found from around the middle of April to May, and depending on conditions, until the middle to late Summer.
Some locations may report earlier than usual growths, while others may prove later. It comes down to your specific location and the climate during the year you plan to search for them.
Morel mushroom hunting season doesn’t have a specific start date. Mother Nature throws some curveballs from time to time and it’s up to us to adapt.
But with morel mushroom season lasting several weeks, there’s a good chance that you’ll strike gold as long as you choose to go hunting somewhere in the middle.
People do report finding them a week or two outside of those times, but it’s rare. A great way to use mother nature herself as a guide, wait until the trees start budding. It’s a good indicator of when to start foraging.
Tip#3: Where is the best place to find morel mushrooms?
Now that you know which country you need to be in and what time of year to go looking, now you ask the next logical question. Where do you find morel mushrooms? The question is a valid one and the following suggestions are all great places to consider.
Morel mushrooms have 2 distinct variations; those growing on prairies, pastures, old orchards, and meadows; the other in forests. The forest morel is also known as fire morels, due to growing in regions where fires burnt the previous summer.
If a late July or August fire burnt the forest the previous year, there’s a very good chance that morels will bloom there during the subsequent spring.
Although fire is a great start, it may not always induce growth, sometimes taking years to grow. The fire varieties prefer pine and spruce trees and you’ll find the morels scattered around the ground. They may be more abundant around the outer edges of the burn so look for un-charred areas.
Look for morels in amongst fallen trees where they still get plenty of sunshine. They like to grow amongst the pine needles, preferring the deeper red patches. Search among tree roots and keep your eyes open. You may find one growing randomly in a location you might not expect.
Tip#4: What am I looking for?
Knowing where to look is just as important as knowing what you are looking for. It’s no good going hunting if you aren’t really sure of what a morel mushroom actually looks like. They do have distant cousins which can be quite toxic. Avoid them and if unsure, don’t take chances.
The True Morel mushroom has a distinctive cap that looks like it’s made up of ridges and valleys. Honeycomb is probably similar in appearance. The color varies a little, but golden-blond to gray is common. One species, the Black Morel, has distinctive black ridges surround the golden valleys beneath.
The cap of a morel mushroom will stand tall, almost to attention. It’s quite firm in appearance and if you spot a false morel, you will instantly understand the difference.
Morels attach to their stem at the very base of the cap and this leaves the interior of the cap hollow. Slice the cap open and see for yourself to confirm the real thing.
There is a variety called half morels. They are edible but don’t attach to the stem at the base, but halfway up, hence the name. As explained further down, toxic varieties attach at the top of the cap and might confuse you. If you are unsure, discard the mushroom. It really isn’t worth the risk.
Tip #5: What don’t I want to find?
With more than 50 000 varieties of fungus, there are some that resemble a morel a little too closely, leading many to question the real thing. Understanding some of the traits of those fake morels, also called false morels, will help you better identify the prize.
Some false morels will appear like the real thing, their caps almost the same. But they lack some of the key traits when you inspect them further. Their caps won’t be as upright, lobbed to one side.
The stem attaches to the very top of the cap, not the bottom. If you slice the cap open and find it filled with a fibrous material, it’s not a true morel.
The cap of a false morel will also appear squashed and irregular. It almost appears as if someone stood on it. The outside of the cap doesn’t resemble the beautiful honeycomb of a true morel, appearing more wavy, almost like a fungal brain.
Tip #6: Find one, find many
You’ve been searching for hours, hunting the elusive morel mushroom around the forest like a crazed stalker when all of a sudden, there it is. The prize, standing at attention, as if beckoning to you.
But wait. Before you go skipping off into the woods with your prized fungus safely in your bag, pause for a moment. It is extremely likely that where you find one, there are others close by. Scan the immediate area and keep your nose to the ground.
Tip #7: Final morel mushroom hunting secrets
If you are foraging for morels in the early part of the season, focus more on south-facing hills and ridges. In the later part of the season focus on the northern sides. Morels love trees, so look near some of their favorites, like ash and elm.
With a little persistence and a keen eye, it shouldn’t take long for you to find your first morel. For a sure-fire way to locate some and ensure they are the real deal, ask an experienced forager to accompany you.
They built their knowledge on years of field experience and this can prove to be immensely helpful to kickstart your own hobby.
Use the morel mushroom hunting tips for yourself, but beware!
Foraging for mushrooms is something we humans have done since we stood upright and walked on 2 legs. The skill and patience you’ll need are already within you, passed down by countless generations who survived from it.
The thing to remember with mushroom foraging is that as with anything, it carries certain risks. Be sure of what you eat before you eat it. Recognize the ones that aren’t the real thing and discard them, even if you’re only half-sure.
Morel mushrooms contain toxins only destroyed by cooking so make sure not to nibble on them until you’ve properly cooked them through.
Using the morel mushroom hunting tips in this article should help improve your chances of finding some for yourself. The art of foraging is a great way to get back with nature. Take care out there.
Looking for more tips to get the most of morel hunting season? Check out these morel mushroom hunting secrets.