Morel mushrooms are wonderful, delicious wild edibles that are fun to forage in the Spring – if you know where to look!
In this post I’ll go over how to find morel mushrooms.
Mushroom hunting is easily one of my favorite ways to get outside in the early Spring.
If you’re new to foraging, or could up your morel-hunting game, I’ve compiled a complete post with my favorite tips and tricks.
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Morels are a great beginner’s mushroom as there’s only one look-alike and it’s super easy to tell the difference.
They’re also fairly simple to find (they follow basic rules) and they’re extremely versatile in the kitchen.
In fact, they are so prized by professional and home chefs alike, mushroom hunters sell them for $20/pound in the grocery store, and I’ve even seen locals on Facebook offer $50 per pound!
They’re extremely prolific and can be found in a huge territory in the US.
Morel mushroom season runs from late March through May.
The best part? They follow certain rules that make them easier to find!
How to Find Morel Mushrooms
Morels only grow on the decaying wood of ash trees, aspen, elm trees, sycamore, tulip poplar and oak trees (although they occasionally grow on apple trees, cottonwood and others).
In fact, one of the best way to find wild mushrooms is to walk through old apple orchards in late April.
Simply walking through wooded areas, searching for morels is therapeutic, but if you’re out on a mission focus on locating the trees that morels like.
If you find some, make a note of the trees around the morels – chances are you’ll find more morels under similar trees in the same forest.
They need a certain amount of warmth – soil temperature of about 50 degrees – so early in the season look for them on South-facing slopes in fairly open areas.
As the days grow warmer, however, they’ll begin to grow on North-facing slopes as well.
According to the Foxfire Books there’s an old-wive’s tail that the morels come out when the oak leaves are the size of mouse ears, so if all else fails, you can use that as your guide!
Walk slowly and scan the ground, morels can often hide under leaf litter, and you don’t want to stomp them to death.
When you get to an area you think would be a good morel-producing area (the right trees, humidity, etc.) squat down and scan the ground around you.
Once you find one, remain still and scan around again – where there was hospitable conditions and a morel spore, there will usually be more!
The best place to find them are on moist soil.
Morels love moisture, but do best in well drained soils.
Good places morel hunters often look to look is a low, humid hill with loamy soil is key.
A week of 50 degree nights that brings up the ground temperature and a bought of warm spring rain are an excellent combination for morel-hunting.
Usually early in the morel-season they tend to be black morels but the gray, white and yellow morels appearing later in the season.
They can be any size from the size of a finger to a soda can without it affecting their taste.
High-Tech Morel Hunting
If you’re techy and want to take your morel hunting to the next level, there are dozens of free, online satellite imaging sources that can help you narrow down your location.
Through these sites, you can zoom in on the area you’re looking to hunt, and filter the data by soil type (look for sandy or loamy as it drains well) or even tree species.
Also, morels have been spotted in areas ravaged by fire, so you can look for recently burnt forest as well.
Save Some For Later
A morel’s life-cycle is 5 years – which means they need 5 years of ideal growing conditions before they’ll release their spores and create more morels.
Over-hunting has led to a shortage of wild morels, and they are notoriously difficult to cultivate.
When out hunting for morels, don’t collect all that you find.
The ones that you do collect, give them a good shake before you pack them away, or pack them in a mesh bag to release as much of their spores as possible.
If you picked on in it’s 5th year – or a reproductive year – you’ll want to spread as much of the spores as you can to ensure more morels for next year!
Like I mentioned above, there is only one look-alike – or false morel – and it is super easy to tell the difference.
Both morels and false morels have wrinkly caps, but the stems of false morels are not hollow.
These false morels are TOXIC – do not eat.
See below for a picture of false morels.
The tops look mushy, not wrinkly, but if you have any doubt at all, cut it open. The stems of false morels are solid, not hollow.
How to Cook Morels
As with most mushrooms, you need to thoroughly rinse them to remove any dirt, debris, or critters living inside.
For more, check out my 4 Top Fresh Morel Recipes.
I personally slice them in half length-wise and soak them in cold water for up to an hour.
Morels are extremely versatile. That’s why they are so popular with chefs. They can be:
- sauteed simply in butter,
- diced and scrambled with eggs,
- diced and added to a quiche,
- battered and deep fried
- dehydrate them for future use (do not wash beforehand)
Again, the Foxfire Books come in handy with heritage morel recipes from old school Appalachia:
- Soak in salt water
- Slice crossways in rings.
- Dip in egg and corn meal.
- Fry at medium low heat.
Fried Morels 2
- Fry one pint of morels in a pan with an egg-sized piece of butter.
- Sprinkle on salt and pepper.
- When butter is almost absorbed, add fresh butter and enough flour to thicken.
- Serve on toast or cornbread.
Stuffed Morels Recipe
- Soak one-half hour in salt water.
- Parboil lightly.
- Stuff with finely chopped chicken or cracker crumbs and butter.
- Bake at low heat for twenty minutes.
Merkel (Morel) Omelet
- Let stand in salt water one hour.
- Chop fine.
- Mix with eggs, salt and pepper.
- Fry in butter.
Merkel (Morel) Pie
- Cut into small pieces.
- Cover bottom of pie dish with thin bits of bacon.
- Add layer of merkels and potatoes, finishing with potatoes on top.
- Bake one-half hour.