Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Morel Mushroom Hunting

With the passage of winter comes wet soggy ground, which are perfect conditions for mushroom growth. In our area there is one mushroom that creates a mad dash to collect it: the Morel.

This beauty was growing in our raspberry patch.
This mushroom is one of the greats! Morel mushrooms can be hard to find and have a short window of time for harvesting. The work is worth it, they are very flavorful and thus used in many tasty gourmet recipes.

If you know where to look, you can find them for free! Just think that this delicacy could be growing in your area, just waiting for the picking. Here are a few helpful tips for you to succeed on your mushroom hunt.

Be Safe
Be aware that morels contain small amounts of hydrazine toxin that is removed through cooking.
Do not eat morel mushrooms raw, ever.

Always be 100% certain of the edible type of mushroom you pick as they often have look alikes that can be poisonous. When in doubt, throw it out - do not eat.

ForagingGuide.com is a very helpful site with background on Morel mushrooms and best times of year to go looking, and what to look for.

Know the Morel's characteristics
Morels are very distinctive mushrooms that have a honeycomb-like upper portion with ridges with pits between them. The coloring range from yellow to gray-black in color, depending on the variety you find. Here in Southeastern Wisconsin, we have mostly yellow or black morels.

The best places to find Morels
Morels are commonly found under deciduous trees (trees that have leaves). If the tree is dead or dying it is all the better for morel hunting. Trees to look for are ash, oak, cottonwoods or old apple trees. These are not strict rules on where to find morels. Keep your eyes open when hunting, we had 2 morels growing on southern (sunny) side of our house right out in the grass.

Gently hold the base of the mushroom and twist off the ground. Or you can cut the mushroom at the ground level. Note that you do not want to take the roots. You will not want to eat the soil covered root and by leaving the root behind, some people believe that more morels will grow there in the future. And keep your spot a secret so others don't beat you to the goods next season!

Happy Hunting!