The Elusive Morel Mushroom: Local Gold
When we moved to Indiana 10 years ago, people kept telling us about the morel mushrooms that grow in the area during the spring season. They would go on and on about how wonderful these mushrooms were and how lucky you were if you found them. They talked about their favorite ways to eat them—some even boasted that they knew of a secret place where they grew. But they would never tell you where! They wouldn’t even share a bite of this local delicacy so that we could see what all the fuss was about.
Mushroom hunting was a serious ordeal. Frequently, we would see cars parked beside the road and know that someone was off in the woods hoping to find a good cluster. Morels were like gold to these folks, and for good reason. These mushrooms sell locally for $40–50 per pound!
A Good Mushroom Hunter
A good mushroom hunter knows exactly where and when to look for morels. They know the exact weather conditions that cause large numbers to erupt from the ground. They know exactly where they grow. They mark them with a GPS locator . . . secretly.
We were not good mushroom hunters. It took several years before we finally happened upon a cluster of morels on our property. But what a cluster it was! We harvested five pounds of mushrooms. Do the math with me now; that would be worth over $200! So, did we sell them and collect the cash? No. We ate them, shamelessly, every last bite.
Do Morel Mushrooms Taste Good?
Morels are wonderful fried in butter with a little garlic, salt, and pepper. They are wonderful sliced in half, fried in butter and garlic and added to a fried egg sandwich. They are wonderful when made into a mushroom gravy and served over mashed potato or steak. They are just wonderful any way you eat them. Now, I hear that if you have any left over, you can dry them and save them for later. But I have never had any left over.
Tips for Finding Morels
If you are fortunate enough to live where morels grow (or you’re thinking you might want to pay a visit to a friend or family member who lives where these mushrooms grow next spring), here are some tips for finding and harvesting these little delights.
- Morels can be found in the spring, usually after a period of wet weather, when the ground has begun to dry. The erratic weather patterns we’ve had the past few years have made it more difficult to know when to look for morels. But generally, in my neck of the woods, they can be found between March and May. If you live further north, you may find them later into the year.
- Morels hide around tree roots. I have seen several that grow right out of the roots. They like certain types of trees best. I was told to look for ash and elm trees that are starting to rot or sites where these trees were cut down in recent years.
- When you go out to hunt for morels, bring some net bags to collect them in. Bags that onions come in work great. The holes in the bag allow the mushroom spores to fall out so that they can re-seed. If you put your mushrooms in a plastic bag, you will take all the spores with you and you may never find mushrooms in that location again. It is a good idea to break or cut your mushroom off, leaving the roots intact. Also, give your mushroom a little shake to allow those spores to fall right where you picked it.
- When you have a sufficient amount of mushrooms for a meal, or just can’t find any more, bring them home. Place them in a bowl of cold water and salt and set them in the fridge until you are ready to use them. They actually taste better and cook up better if you leave them in the fridge this way for several hours (or overnight) before you cook them.
Not Enough to Go Around
Last May, I had family visiting from New Hampshire. They had never seen a morel or tasted one. We went out looking three times during the week they were visiting, hoping to find some, even though it was late in the season. At long last, we located two on a log near the creek. Now, I had to find a way for nine people to have a taste. Two mushrooms were not a lot to work with. It amounted to about one bite per person. But that was enough. My family was hooked! We did some research and found that morels do grow in New Hampshire, and it was not too late to find them there. They went home knowing what to look for and where to look. Hopefully, they will get lucky and find their own local gold!
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.
© 2019 Amanda Buck