Morel mushrooms are a very distinctive variety of mushroom found in woodlands where there is moist soil. Although Morel mushrooms require cooking before they can be eaten, they make a delicious and healthful addition to any recipes that call for mushrooms. Morel mushrooms, like many mushrooms, have many health benefits associated with their consumption….
Minding Our Morels: Foraging for Wild Mushrooms
Country folk all over the northern hemisphere — especially in the American Midwest — are heading into the woods to hunt for morels, the delicacy of wild mushrooms that herald the arrival of spring right along with wild asparagus, wild ramps and wild strawberries. We jealously guard our most fungi-ful sources. We move furtively, so not to disclose our destinations. And hunt, we must, for morels are masters of camouflage, hiding themselves amid leaf litter from the autumn’s canopy. We revel in the knowledge that morels — finally, something! — resist commercial farming attempts. Live wild, live free, morels!
Perfect conditions are important for a bumper crop of morels.
“A variety of weather conditions have to converge for a good mushroom crop and we just aren’t seeing it happen. The air temperature during the day should ideally be 60-70 degrees, followed by night-time temperatures of no less than 40 degrees for several days. The ground temperature should be no less than 50-60 degrees for a few days. Many avid mushroomers like to use the blooming of the lilac bush, which seems to coincide with good mushroom hunting. At present the lilacs are two to three weeks away from blooming. Their buds are still hard and tight. Early season mushroom hunters like to search sunny hillsides where there are dead or dying elm trees, ash or apple trees. Recently burned-off areas are considered a likely spot to harbor a mother-lode of morels. When new sprouts and grasses emerge is the right time to hunt the burn-offs. (Source: Muscatine Journal (Muscatine, Iowa)
But if your life is gifted with morels, drop all else, savor them immediately…
- The Inquisitive Palate ~ Sautéed Morels & Shallots
- Superfood ~ Morels with Marsala
- Sounding My Barbaric Gulp ~ Battered Morels
JAZZ up Morels if you like, when the season hands baskets of morels…
- Simply Recipes ~ Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup
- Toast ~ Asparagus with Morels
- Angela’s Food Love ~ Buckwheat Crepes with Fresh Morels (that’s Angela’s gorgeous photo too!)
- Slurp & Burp ~ Morel Beurre Blanc
- Restaurant Widow ~ Monkfish Cheeks & Morels on Toast
- Tigers & Strawberries ~ Enchanted Forest Mushrooms (you must-must-must check this post to learn about a new edible flower)
- Nami-Nami ~ Spring Mushroom Meatloaf
Dried Morels so our city-folk and southern-hemisphere friends don’t feel left out…
Your Recipes, Your Morel Memories
Have you foraged for wild mushrooms? Tell us your stories, share your recipes! Join BlogHer and leave a comment! If you’re a blogger, leave a link to a relevant post.
CAUTION: Never ever EVER EVER — did you hear me? NEVER! — eat wild mushrooms unless gathered by an experienced mushroom hunter. Many wild mushrooms are poisonous! For more information on wild mushrooms, visit MushroomExpert.com, The Great Morel or Morels.com.
How to Find Morel Mushrooms
- RESEARCH – Before venturing out, the first thing you need to do is be sure your certain of what a morel looks like. There are a couple species of mushroom that look very much like the morel and you don’t want to be picking the wrong kind. Take a couple from a morel hunting friend with you for reference, a good mushroom book or better yet, an experienced friend.
- KNOW WHEN TO SAY WHEN – Morels start popping up in the early spring when the ground is warming up, fern fronds are poking up and for us, after you see the first snake sunning itself. After a night of rain is perfect. If it’s too dry, most morels won’t be convinced to come out of hiding. They need warm, damp ground.
- DRESS FOR SUCCESS – You will be walking in the woods. Bugs, briar’s, sharp twigs.. need I say more? Wear long sleeves and pants. You will also be walking a lot so wear shoes that are comfortable. It wouldn’t hurt to put on a dash of orange as spring turkey season is near morel season in many areas.
- IT’S IN THE BAG – Get a citrus or onion bag, the mesh type. This is what you will place your morels in when you find them. The holes allow the morel seeds to fall through so you can find more next time. It also helps protect them from being smashed. Paper bags are fine but never, ever use plastic. Morels have a lot of moisture and plastic will make a mushy mess of your hard earned loot.
- TREES AND OTHER SIGNS OF HOPE – Morels seem to prefer the company/shade of poplar trees and also elm, ash, maple and even fruit trees. Some people have luck finding the giant white morels in apple orchards even. Morels also enjoy mossy areas, dead tree stumps and semi-freshly timbered areas. But these are all signs of hope. Morels can really be found in the oddest of places. There is a place near us that is nothing but a sand pit, yet we find morels there every year. However, I’ve personally yet to find any in heavy pine areas with their blankets of needles.
- WALK SLOWLY AND CARRY A BIG STICK – Walk slowly and pause often to study your surroundings. I can’t count the number of times our anxious children have been stopped (or not *sigh*) from stomping on morels. Like looking at the lines of a highway, they may be right next to you but they are much easier to focus on if you look from a tad distance away. Your walking stick will come in handy for gently lifting up leaves and other soft debris that may be hiding morels.
- SOCIAL FUNGI – Where you find one morel, you can usually find more. That is unless your area has already been picked over and you lucked out by finding one someone else missed.
- EARLY BIRD GETS THE WORM – or in this case, early risers get the most morels. Morels emerge early and so do the successful hunters. If you sleep in, you may not find them if you happen to be hunting in territory others may tread over.
- DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL – Morel hunters do not share the location of their hunting areas. Don’t ask them, it’s considered quite rude. But if you do, expect a sharp no with no fear of offending you.
- OKAY, ASK! – Please DO ask before going where it is or may be private property before looking for morels. Safest is public land or even your own land. Heck, many people have great success canvasing the roadway ditches. Wear orange and carry trash and pop can bags and make a great day of it!
- BAG IT – Bring your lunch. Once you start finding morels it’s like an endless Easter egg hunt. You will be addicted and you won’t want to stop. And please, for goodness sakes, bag your trash and take it with you.
- Take your morels to your local extension office. They will inspect your morels free of charge to make sure you don’t have false morels or any other mushroom that could cause you to become ill.. or worse! —–
How to Prepare Morel Mushrooms
- Examine your morel mushroom haul for large pieces of dirt, and brush them off with a mushroom brush, a paper towel or your hands. Be very thorough as morel mushrooms are very sandy and you do not want any grit in your finished dish.
- Slice your mushrooms in half lengthwise. Inspect the hollowed out inside for any critters that may have hitched a ride. Your morels were living in dirt, so don’t be alarmed if you see ants, spiders or even worms hanging out inside your mushroom.
- Soak your sliced mushrooms in a bowl of salt water for 30 minutes. Use approximately 2 tbsp. of salt per half gallon of water. The salt water will drive out any remaining critters that may still be using your mushroom as a home. If you are a mushroom purist and don’t mind the extra protein, you can skip this step. Some mushroom lovers claim that soaking the mushroom ruins the texture and flavor and would rather deal with a few bugs in their shrooms.
- Remove the morels from their salt-water bath, and gently rinse them under running water. After rinsing, lay them on paper towels, and let them dry completely. It is very important that the mushrooms are thoroughly dry before cooking since excess moisture will adversely affect the texture of morels. Any extra moisture when cooking will cause the mushrooms to steam rather than crisply saute.
- Heat a heavy saute pan (cast iron works well) and melt a few tablespoons of butter. Make sure to use real butter, using olive oil or margarine doesn’t yield the same results. Add your mushrooms to the pan, and cook over high heat until the edges of the morels start to brown. This usually takes about 10 minutes. If your butter starts to burn, turn down the heat to medium high. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Health Benefits of Morel Mushrooms
Morel mushrooms consist of several B-vitamins and health promoting minerals. Studies have revealed that Morel mushrooms reduce the risk of cancer as they contain a high level of niacin and selenium. Also, the superior vitamins and mineral content, low calories and fat content make it an ideal food for weight loss. It improves the conditions and functioning of our heart as it contains a good measure of potassium, vitamin E and copper. Morel mushrooms have antioxidant properties which help in boosting the immune system and enable the body to fight with various common illnesses and diseases. They even help in the treatment of diabetes and maintaining low blood sugar levels in the body.
Improved Cardiovacular Health
Morel mushrooms can improve heart conditions due to their high levels of copper, vitamin E, and potassium. A study conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry confirmed this evidence of heart health aided by mushroom consumption.
Reduced Cancer Risk
Morel mushrooms can decrease the risk of cancer, especially prostate cancer, due to their high levels of selenium and niacin. These results were noted by the Cancer Research UK study on the effects of mushrooms for cancer treatment
Ideal for Weight Loss
Morel mushrooms are low in fat and calories, yet high in vitamins and nutrients, making them helpful for people trying to lose weight. A study conducted by the John Hopkins Weight Management Center shows that mushrooms may help with weight loss (see Resources).
Increase Immunity to Illness
Morel mushrooms are high in antioxidants, which boosts the immune system and help your body resist diseases and illnesses. In a study conducted by the Department of Surgical Research at the Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope confirms that high mushroom intake may increase immunity.
Aid in Diabetes Treatment
Morel mushrooms can help lower blood sugars and keep them balanced, making Morel mushrooms helpful for treating diabetes naturally. Always check with your health practitioner.
Morel Truths: The Mini-Series (Episode 1) What Are Morel Mushrooms?