Wild mushrooms grow in almost any outdoor space, especially if it is moist and shady. You can harvest and cook them for survival in the wilderness. But you must be careful because some mushrooms can be dangerous. Fortunately, there is one mushroom that is safe for you to enjoy: Morel mushrooms. If you have never heard of them, here’s how to hunt and find them.
The Morel mushroom is popular with many hunters because they are plentiful. It is easy to find them in many places in the wild. Some people even sell them on the market as it is an in-demand mushroom. But, be careful when searching for these edible morsels….you must look carefully to make sure you’ve got the right fungi.
What is the Morel Mushroom?
The Morel mushroom is unique fungus out in the wild. It is a sac fungus that includes a series of spores and holes on its body. It is different from the traditional cap fungi you might see on most mushrooms.
It’s also famous for its honeycomb-like body. It features many ridges around the cap with several pits inside them. These waves make the fungi attractive. The Morel has a pine-coned shape, which makes it distinguishable.
Geographic Areas & Locations
You must know how to find true Morel mushrooms as you get your hunting plans ready. Fortunately, there are many areas around the world where Morels mushrooms grow. Those areas include many places in North America. It is easy to spot them in the Midwestern United States, particularly around Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.
The Great Lakes region is a popular place to go hunting. They’re also present in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and parts of Southern Ontario and Manitoba. Also, they are popular in parts of southern Asia. And you can find them growing in India, Pakistan and Turkey.
They grow in warm, dark, and moist areas and in places that become warm during the spring season. Any place that gets enough moisture is a good area to search. The growth comes after the winter season as the soil becomes more active and conducive to producing them.
Where to Find Them
The mushroom typically grows under trees or where trees used to be. Here are several other places to find Morel mushrooms:
- Look at hillsides facing the south. The sun warms the southern ends of hillsides faster, thus making it easier for mushrooms to grow there.
- Search areas impacted by natural events or people. Areas that experienced flooding in the past or the presence of off-road vehicles and foot traffic are good areas to find them.
- Logging areas. The sun’s rays and warmth can creep into areas that are shady.
- Seek out Forest areas that have suffered fires. But only go into those areas once the fires are under control. The newly exposed surfaces where trees used to be are prime areas.
- Soft soil with clay and sand is conducive to growth. Streams and small creeks are places that have soft soil with enough moisture to help them grow. Deserts are not the right climate for Morels – stick with Coyote Hunting for those areas.
- Dying trees are great areas to explore. As a dead tree rots, its nutrients return to the soil. The roots of the tree will also release their moisture. This creates a perfect environment.
Why are People Interested in Morel Mushrooms?
People are interested in them because they are a challenge to find. People don’t farm Morels like other mushrooms. It is extremely difficult to understand the relationship between the mushroom and the areas where they grow. Some have made many attempts to grow them by duplicating nature, but there hasn’t been any success. Further research is necessary to find out how to farm them successfully.
One of the best parts is that they are delicious. They have a nutty taste with a meaty texture. They aren’t as tart or overly slimy as some others in the wild. Those who don’t like the taste or feel of traditional mushrooms often like the taste of these instead. The strong texture is not overly chewy or soft, thus making them easier to eat. The flavor does not overwhelm a dish, either.
Establishing the Value:
Many are also interested in Morel hunting because they are valuable. They can sell for $200 to $300 per pound. Many farmers’ markets and produce shops are willing to pay people for them because of how hard they are to find.
Most people sell them at organic food markets or a local farmers’ markets. If you want to sell them, contact one of these places to see if they want to buy them from you on a regular basis.
The Morel mushroom has some appealing nutritional features. If you consume 3.5 ounces of them, you will get:
- Approx. 12.2 mg of iron. This is close to the average daily recommended amount of iron.
- A third of your daily need for vitamin D. Vitamin D is necessary to maintain healthy bones.
- 30 to 40 calories per serving. Low calorie natural foods are always a great way to snack.
- About three grams of protein. This is a healthy amount that provides people with energy.
- Low in fat. There is only about 0.6 grams of fat per 3.5 ounces
The nutritional properties will vary based on what you add to the dish. Try to eat them without adding anything overpowering. Fortunately, the flavor of the Morel is delicious on its own, so you don’t need to add lots of ingredients.
Morel mushrooms are also high in antioxidants to keep your body healthy and focused. Other health benefits include:
- They can balance your blood sugar, thus keeping it stable. This point is vital for diabetics.
- They may also restore the liver’s natural functions. Damage to the liver is repairable, although it depends on the severity of the damage.
- Morels may also improve heart health. Copper and potassium are in trace amounts within the body.
- Selenium and niacin are two nutrients that help regulate how cells form. This may reduce a person’s risk of developing various types of cancer.
- While not proven, they may help in the prevention of prostate cancer.
Overall, they can do wonders for the human body, which is why many organic food stores have started selling them.
When Are They in Season?
The Morel mushroom season varies based on where you go. In most cases, the season takes place during the spring. In the United States, the season goes from April to June.
It starts a little earlier in the Great Lakes region, but the timing is consistent throughout much of the country. The weather might influence the timing of the season.
The best times for them to grow are when conditions are around 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the daytime and in the 50’s or mid-40’s during the evening. These are times when they are more likely to grow.
Identifying Morel Mushrooms
Now that you know what makes them worth searching for, it’s time to get out there and go hunting. But you must know what they look like if you want to find something worthwhile. You can identify them by its distinct oblong appearance. It has a football-like shape to it.
The outside offers a honeycomb-like texture. It features many openings where spores are formed. The spores are irregular in size. Morels can vary in size, too. Some are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Others are large enough to use both your hands to hold onto them.
The Morel has an off-white color to its body. It has a white tone on its stem. too. Some brownish parts may be on the outside. One idea may be to look for the specific trees in an area.
The Ideal Specimen:
There are no real standards for what makes one Morel better than others. Here are a few things that make some easier to harvest:
- The best Morels are a little firm and strong. They can be dry but still flexible on its surface. This suggests that the mushroom is growing well and will not come apart easily.
- They can be black or dark brown in color, but the easiest types to prepare are lighter in appearance. Tan mushrooms are considered the freshest.
- Anything that does not contain excess dirt or is inhabited by insects is worthwhile. Always rinse any mushroom that contains too much dirt or other things. Keep reading to learn more about how to wash them.
What to Bring When Hunting
You must know what to bring with you before you go out to hunt. Nothing is worse than being in the middle of the woods and realizing you don’t have the gear you need. To be safe and successful on your next hunt, you’ll need to:
- Wear long pants. You might have to walk through into some seriously muddy areas just to find them.
- Wear a long-sleeved shirt and bring a jacket. Find something waterproof so it becomes easier for you to get into the mushroom’s habitat.
- Bring waterproof hiking boots. They should be high enough to go over your ankles.
- Carry a walking stick to keep yourself stable while walking. You don’t want to get hurt out in the woods. The stick may also help with lifting brush where they might be hiding.
Morels: The Surroundings
Be aware of your surroundings when going on a hunt. Wear enough clothing so that you’ll cover up your skin and avoid getting in touch with poison ivy or ticks. Poison ivy often grows in the same areas. This irritating plant can cause severe rashes on your body. Such rashes and itching can persist for days.
Wearing appropriate gloves and long-sleeved shirts or jackets is always a good thing to do. You should also wash them if you suspect you got them from an area where poison ivy persists. Details on how to wash a mushroom will be covered a little later.
Watch for ticks as well. Ticks are often prevalent near dark, moist areas. These pests can bite and might even transmit Lyme disease. Again, you should wear gloves and long-sleeved materials to keep your skin protected against ticks.
Cutting, Storage & Care
Cutting Morel mushrooms as you find them is easy to do. To cut Morels, trim the base of the mushroom from the stem. This allows for the base of the mushroom to stay intact, thus making it easier for you to harvest them well into the future.
Store them in a secure bag. A cloth or mesh bag allows the mushroom to breathe, keeping them fresh. Avoid using a plastic bag or anything airtight when storing your mushrooms. Such a bag will stop air from circulating, keeping the them from thriving. You can store them in a refrigerator for a few days after harvesting them.
They can last for about two to five days in the refrigerator. Try to get them ready for use or sale as soon as possible after you have harvested them. Waiting too long could cause them to spoil.
You must clean them once you have harvested them. Cleaning them makes it easier for you to sell them or use them for cooking. Cleaning ensures worms and other insects will not remain inside the mushrooms.
To clean them, place them in a clean bowl. Fully immerse the mushroom in fresh, clean water and add a pinch of salt. Allow them to soak for about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain them after you have soaked them.
Allow the water to naturally leave the mushrooms. Allow enough natural air to flow around them. Be careful when rinsing after they have been cleaned as rinsing the mushrooms could damage the body.
Repeat the process two more times so they will be fully clean. Considering how long they might have been out in the wild, you will have to clean them thoroughly before cooking them.
Cleaning Off Dirt:
Always remove large clumps of dirt from the mushrooms before washing them. It is easier to wash them if you can brush excess debris from them. Do not use anything abrasive when cleaning.
Instead, use a vegetable brush to remove any dirt. Keep the brush soft and dry, so it can clean the mushrooms without damaging them. You can also roll them up in a clean cloth on a flat surface to remove any dirty quickly.
You should be cautious during preparation. Never consume a Morel mushroom raw. They can contain hydrazine toxins. This is a compound that can produce high amounts of gas in anyone who consumes them.
Fortunately, cooking destroys those toxins. Also avoid consuming them with alcohol to avoid an upset stomach.
Watch Out for False Morels
Be cautious when searching for Morel mushrooms so you do not come across any false positives. These are mushrooms that look like the Morel, but are not. They are extremely dangerous as some might be poisonous. False Morels have the following characteristics:
- May have a red surface.
- False mushrooms contain flake-like surfaces. They might have a honeycomb look, but the outside surface might have too many flakes all around.
- The cap of a false Morel may have some folds around its body
- The stem may not be connected to the cap
- The outside surface could feel a little too brittle.
To identify a false Morel, slice it in half. Notice when cutting the plant that the inside texture is softer. The color might be a little too light, as well. You must be aware that false Morels are not only harmful, but can also be deadly. Check carefully to see what a real Morel looks like. This is to give you the best possible mushroom without it being risky or potentially harmful to you.
A Final Word
The Morel mushroom is one of the best mushrooms you can find. It is valuable, plentiful and is an edible mushroom those who normally don’t like will enjoy. You can find these plants in abundance during the season. Successfully hunting them can take you to many attractive places where it grows.
The thrill of finding lots of them is especially rewarding – maybe even financially. Whether you need Morels for survival, to cook with or sell it at the market, the Morel mushroom is an attractive fungus to find.
My articles appear in Marketing Edge Magazine, on Gizmogrind, and with various Medium publications. But one thing hasn’t changed in all of my life: no matter where I was or what I was doing. I’ve always loved to be outdoors.
A man needs nothing more than a good flannel shirt, a well-worn pair of jeans, and comfortable hiking boots. I don’t go for all the fancy luxury stuff. Suits are uncomfortable and shaving sucks.