Walking in the woods is relaxing on its own, but with a little luck, you could come across some of the tastiest morsels of the forest. Once you find your first morel, you’ll be poking around in the brush and rustling through last fall’s leaves to find more. Many people enjoy the hunt, and hunting is the right word when it comes to finding morel mushrooms (actually they’re fungi)… because mother nature doesn’t always cooperate.
When you find one morel, chances are there’s more. Like most fungi, they rely on an underground ‘root’ system that relies on the perfect conditions to grow. Moisture, temperature and other factors dictate when you’ll see the first morels sprouting from the forest floor.
When are morels in season?
The "season" for Morel Mushrooms begins sooner in the southern climates and works its way north as the daytime temperatures warm up. Start looking when temperatures begin to climb into the sixties with low’s in the 40’s. This is approximately mid-April for the Central United States.
Where in the world do they grow?
It seems morels can grow wherever they want. The picture above is at the edge of a grassy area in a local park. The Great Lakes area seems to be a hotbed for the morel, but their most prolific range seems to be from West to East, Oklahoma to Washington D.C.; and from North to South, Minnesota to Tennessee. But they're can be morel hotspots throughout the West and the Pacific Northwest as well.
Look around downed trees, such as old ash and elms, poplars, aspens and around orchards or even pine trees. Sometimes you’ll see big patches of morels after forest fires or logging operations. The downed trees act as a fertilizer for the morels. Once they start growing they’ll keep coming back until the soil is depleted of the nutrients they need. Many patches will grow for years while others may just appear once.
You found a morel!
Use a mesh bag or an old onion bag. Morels spread with spores and once they’re jostled around they’ll release more spores, hopefully for next year’s harvest.
Once you find a morel, you can just pinch it off at the base. You’ll notice the morel begins to darken along the stem and the cap as it ages. The amount of discoloration indicates whether it’s nearly unusable or not. If the morel is 50% “good” then you can pick off the good parts and throw away the bad. With good weather conditions, the morel can last up to two weeks growing out in the wild.
Once you get them home, it’s a good idea to use them within one week. Rinse off any dirt and little critters and then halve them, place them in a bowl and cover with a damp paper towel or cotton cloth and place in the refrigerator.
It’ll take some work and patience, but enjoy the hunt for the elusive morel and it’ll pay off in the end.
KNOW what you’re picking. True morels are hollow, stem to top. False morels either have a complete stem, or have a connection point between a “cap” and stem.
DO NOT rely on just on this page to identify morels. This page does not contain enough complete information to do so.