Outdoor Guide: Morel Foraging
The late spring gives way to new opportunities for meal-time foraging, and what’s more delicious and exciting in searching for than the morel mushroom? Morels are some of the most sought-after and expensive mushrooms in the northern hemisphere and finding them is not easy. It takes hours of dedication and the knowledge of knowing where to look. It’s important to know the environments that morels thrive in, and how to safely identify and effectively harvest them.
Morels have a very strong earthy and nutty taste which makes them highly desired by chefs and mushroom enthusiasts alike. They also have a short harvesting period between April and June, later now due to the long winter weather.
Morels have a very distinct porous appearance that’s hard to confuse with most other mushrooms. They typically have a thick stem with a bulbous array of honeycomb-type shapes protruding from the cap. The shapes can vary from round to conical and anywhere in between. Morels can range in color anywhere from a pale yellow to a dark brown. Remember to prepare your morels before you eat them; morels are not edible until properly cooked.
It has been a later spring than usual, and the morels haven’t had as much time to start growing due to low spring temperatures. Morels can usually begin to grow once the daytime temperature hits 70°. They also need moist environments with loosely packed soil so they can have room to sprout.
Something to always keep in mind is that searching is no guarantee. Leftover leaves from last fall give morels the perfect camouflage for them to hide in, and that’s assuming you’re looking in the right spots. Try to look for shape rather than color. Morels tend to gravitate toward dead vegetation, specifically dead elm trees, bark, and roots. Remember, these are just general trends that morels follow, this type of mushroom has been found in wide-open grass fields with no trees as well.
When you’re harvesting morels, make sure you bring along a mesh bag. This allows the spores to fall out as you’re searching. Shaking the mushrooms in the same areas you found them is also a good idea. If the conditions are similar, odds are the mushrooms will grow in the same place next year. Don’t worry about picking them versus cutting them at the base.
Lastly, dedicate your time to it. Foraging can easily turn into a friends or family hiking trip. Make sure to gear up appropriately, while the morels are coming out, so are the mosquitoes. Make sure to bring plenty of insect repellant as well as sunscreen, you’re going to be outside for a while, after all. Grab a backpack and make sure you have enough food and water for your time out there. Morel searching can be exciting when you finally find that first mushroom. Usually if you find one morel, keep looking in that area, you'll more than likely find more. Remember to clean them when you get home to prepare and cook.
Happy foraging, friends!