Tips for Hunting Morel Mushrooms
Morel mushroom hunting has been a springtime hobby of our family for many years. In a sense, it is our way of welcoming warm weather to the region after a long and cold winter. For others, mushroom hunting is a way to make a little money on the side. Whether it is a hobby or an attempt to earn some extra income, there is one thing that all morel treasure hunters enjoy the most: eating the bounty.
The tools are not many when you begin your search for mushrooms. However simple, they all serve a valuable purpose.
- A mesh bag: A mesh collecting bag allows the mushrooms to breathe, and it can keep the bugs down to a minimum.
- A hiking stick: A hiking stick can serve several purposes—it can be used to brush away the dead leaves around the trunks of trees and dead logs and help to keep you surefooted when you climbing up and down hills.
- Walking shoes: Good walking shoes offer your feet the proper support and are definitely a necessity when mushroom hunting.
- Tick spray: Tick spray is extremely vital. With the rise of Lyme disease in our area, that is the first thing I stray on before stepping into any wooded area.
The Growing Season
The morel mushroom season varies for different regions in the United States. However, in most cases, morels will appear around the spring months. For example, in the Midwest, you can expect to start looking for them from late April to early May, with the season ending by the beginning of June.
The Growing Cycle
The growing cycle of the morel is dependent upon certain variables, such as ground temperature, rain, and air temperature. You can usually begin to see mushrooms appearing in wooded areas when daytime temperatures stay around 60 to 70 degrees and nighttime weather goes no lower than the 40s.
Wind blows the spores to fertile areas where they begin to germinate and form an underground network of threadlike, tubular branches that will hold the fruit or flower of the fungi, which is the part we all like to eat.
In Iowa, the first type of morel mushroom to make their appearance are the grays. As you might expect, these mushrooms are gray in color. Then, as summer approaches, yellow morels begin to appear.
Where to Find Mushrooms
You will find both yellow and gray morel mushrooms growing near logs, under decomposing leaves, under dying elm trees, ash trees, popular trees, and pine trees, or in old apple orchards.
However, morels do not require trees to grow. Why? It really depends where the winds blow the spores. Where a spore lands is where it grows. Some atypical places where morels have been discovered include parking lots, ditches, and golf courses.
Experienced mushroom hunters rely on wooded areas that have not been disturbed by avid mushroom hunters. If a diehard mushroom hunter finds his own "secret location," they usually will not share it with anyone. In other words, when the demand is high and the supply is limited, sharing is out of the question.
The False Morel
The false morel is poisonous. It is distinctively different from the typical morel mushroom. It truly has an ugly looking appearance with a flat, brain-like cap that is reddish or brownish-red in color. One sure way to determine if you have a false morel is by slicing the mushroom in half lengthwise. If the stem is solid and meaty, you have a false morel. In comparison, if you slice an edible morel lengthwise, you will notice that it is hollow from stem to cap.
First and foremost, do not eat these mushrooms raw. Though delicious when cooked, they can cause gastrointestinal irritation if eaten raw.
Cooking the morel mushroom helps to reduce the possible gastrointestinal upset by eliminating the hydrazine in the mushroom. The most common way to cook morels is by pan-frying them in butter. The recipe is rather simple.
- cracker crumbs (or flour)
- Cut your mushrooms in half and soak them in cold water. Then clean them to get rid of any dirt and possible bugs. Rinse and pat the mushrooms dry. (If you decide on a salt bath, do not leave them in the salt bath to long, because the mushrooms will absorb the salt).
- Beat the eggs in a bowl until they are well-blended.
- Crumble crackers in a plastic bag, then roll the rolling pin over the bag of crackers to create a fine crumb breading.
- Dip the mushroom halves in the egg mix, then coat them with the cracker crumbs.
- Preheat the skillet with butter. Once the skillet is hot, place the mushrooms in the pan and cook for approximately 5 minutes, turning when needed.
- Place the finished mushrooms onto a plate covered with paper towels to remove excess butter. Once all the mushrooms are cooked, it is time to eat!
It took me a while to figure out how to freeze mushrooms. However, I found the best way to have these mushrooms in the winter is to freeze them in this manner.
Prepare and cook the mushrooms using the recipe under "Cooking Mushrooms" (the one that's just above this) with one minor exception—cook the mushrooms only partially for just a couple of minutes. Remove them from the pan and place them on a cookie sheet ti freeze. Once frozen, transfer the mushrooms to a freezer bag. When you are ready to cook the frozen mushrooms, just heat them up for a few minutes before serving.
I personally do not can (as in canning and preservation) morel mushrooms. Why? Morel mushrooms have toxic hydrazines. When you cook them, these toxins usually evaporate into the air. However, when you can mushrooms, these toxins have nowhere to evaporate to, so the toxins go back into the mushrooms. This can lead to botulism.
To conclude, for those who are up to the morel mushroom hunt or are just waiting for the hunt to begin, I wish you great rewards and a plentiful bounty. Bon appétit!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Do morels continue to produce after picking that year?
No. Wild morels are fungi that reproduce from spores. Spores are carried by the wind. Where the spores land is where they grow. Thus, one year you may get buckets of mushrooms the next year maybe only two.Helpful 3
How long can I keep morel mushrooms in my icebox in water before they go bad?
I'd keep them in the refrigerator for a couple of days only. You should do the feel test and the smell test. If they don't smell right, time to throw. If they have a slimy feel, time to throw. I realize this is a subjective answer, but let logic be your guide.Helpful 3
I have 2 morels in my yard, should I just leave them alone?
Go ahead and pick them. You can cut them up and put them in scrambled eggs or an omelet.Helpful 2
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