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Morel Hunting: A Beginner’s Guide

morel hunting
Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / NadineDoerle

Morel mushrooms are an elusive ingredient only found in the wild, and are popular in the culinary world. Learn how to go morel hunting and how to prepare these fungi.

Morel mushrooms, also referred to morels, are a type of wild mushroom characterized by their sponge-like appearance and nutty, earthy flavor. Unlike other mushroom varieties, morels are not commercially cultivated, so you’ll need to go morel hunting if you want to get your hands on these delicate fungi. They are found in wooded areas across Europe and North America, and morel hunting is a popular activity among mushroom enthusiasts. 

Hunting for morels can be done all across the country in the late spring, as there have been reported sightings in nearly every continental state. You will have more success on the east coast, where there seems to be an abundance of morels. 

Identifying Morel Mushrooms

Morels have a honeycomb exterior, which makes them easy to identify.
Morels have a honeycomb exterior, which makes them easy to identify.
(Foto: CC0 Public Domain / Unsplash / Beth Macdonald )

When foraging food in the wild, you need to know exactly what you’re looking for. Several commonly foraged plants have poisonous doppelgangers, so you need to be careful. If you’ve never been foraging before, it’s a good idea to go out with an experienced forager. Check online for foraging groups in your area. When morel hunting, look for the following signs: 

  • a honeycomb or sponge-like exterior 
  • an oblong or bulbous shape 
  • blonde to gray in color 
  • white and hollow interior 

If you notice that the mushroom you’ve found is yellowy or reddish-brown in color, steer clear. If you are unsure, check to see that the interior is hollow – if not, you’ve picked a false morel that should not be eaten.

Morel Hunting Tips

Morels have a short shelf life since they are hollow inside.
Morels have a short shelf life since they are hollow inside.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / bethL)

Morels are one of the first signs of spring, so you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled from early March through June. They have an incredibly short growing season, so the timings might vary depending on the part of the country you live in. To make morel hunting easier, use websites like The Great Morel to see if there have been any sightings in your area. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when morel hunting: 

  • The darker the color, the nuttier the flavor
  • Bring a mesh bag to store your morels to allow them to breathe
  • Wear sturdy footwear, as most morels will be found off of the path
  • Bring a GPS or map with you so you don’t get lost
  • Go on foot — using off-road vehicles can damage the forest floor where morels grow 
  • Black morels are among the first to arrive, and can often be found in clusters near ash trees 
  • Yellow morels are often found alone, or scattered in small groups 

Ways to Use Morel Mushrooms

Morel mushroom risotto is a great way to highlight the early flavors.
Morel mushroom risotto is a great way to highlight the early flavors.
(Foto: CC0 Public Domain / Unsplash / Rob Wicks )

Morels are a unique and tasty ingredient that is best when cooked simply — they should not be eaten raw, as they can cause stomach cramps. Morels are high in minerals like iron and copper, low in calories, and high in antioxidants, fiber, and protein. 

Before cooking, you’ll want to rinse the mushrooms to get rid of any dirt, and then dry them immediately so the water can’t be absorbed. In order to highlight the simplicity of this humble ingredient, try the following ideas: 

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