Morel mushroom hunting tips

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morel mushroom
From Wikimedia Commons: By Palanquin (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

(This post was last updated March 31, 2016)

Likely the most sought-after mushroom, the morel is in high demand come spring.
The morel is easily distinguished from other mushrooms. You’ll notice its wrinkled, spongy appearance, its conical shape and how the “cap” attaches near the bottom of the stem. Morel mushrooms are also hollow.

The morel is easily distinguished from other mushrooms. You’ll notice its wrinkled, spongy appearance, its conical shape and how the “cap” attaches near the bottom of the stem. Morel mushrooms are also hollow.

Why are morel mushrooms so popular?

Blame it on the thrill of the chase. Morel mushrooms are highly sought after because they can be difficult to find. They’re also considered a delicacy. While they can be purchased at the grocery store, many people prefer to find them in the wild.

When are morel mushrooms in season?

Morels can be found in most of the U.S., anywhere from late March through the month of May.

When are morel mushrooms in season in Ohio?

In Ohio, you can usually find morels in abundance between mid-April and the first two weeks of May, depending on where you live in the state. The season usually lasts for a couple of weeks, as the mushrooms don’t emerge all at once.

morel mushroomsHow do I know if it’s a morel mushroom?

Before you hunt morels, know that there are poisonous “false” morels. Ohio State University Extension includes a photograph of the false morels in its fact sheet. While the mushroom’s cap resembles the morel in texture (it looks wrinkled and spongy, but is more brain-like), the overall shape is not as distinct as the morel.

In Ohio, these false morels can be found in April and May.

No matter what kind of mushroom hunting you are doing, use a field guide that contains clear, full-color photos, or take an experienced mushroom hunter with you on your first hunt.

Where can I hunt for morel mushrooms in Ohio?

In Ohio state parks, mushroom hunting is permitted, but pay attention to specific rules at parks.  Ohio’s state forests all permit mushroom hunting, too.

Morels grow in forested areas and on the edges of forested areas. According to University of Nebraska-Lincoln, morels like loose soil that’s rich with humus, high humidity and decaying vegetation like rotting fallen trees and stumps. They can also be found in ravines and deciduous woodlands that aren’t close to streams.

Morel hunting tips

Field and Stream, Serious Eats, Michigan State University Extension and University of Nebraska-Lincoln offer some tips for finding morels:

  • You’ll likely find morels by aspen, ash, tulip poplar and elm trees and even in old orchards or where there was a forest fire the previous year.
  • Look for morels on east-facing hills.
  • Look for morels in rotting fallen trees and stumps.
  • You may have luck finding morels after the first rain, and once the days and nights begin to warm up.
  • Pick morels that are firm, dry and fresh.
  • Don’t pick morels that are soft, wet or spongy.
  • Check for worms. If a morel has worms, you can pick them out.
  • When in doubt, don’t. If you’re not sure if a mushroom is a morel, don’t chance eating it. Some mushrooms are poisonous, and there are morel look-alikes that are mildly toxic. If you’re unsure, check with a University Extension specialist to confirm if a mushroom is a true morel or not.

How do I clean morel mushrooms?

Like all food that’s grown in the wild, it’s a good idea to clean morels off before cooking them. Oregon State University Extension offers the following advice for cleaning mushrooms:

  • Brush off dirt with your fingers or a paper towel. Morels can trap dirt.
  • Quickly rinse under running water. Pat dry with a paper towel. Or, soak morels in salt water overnight in the refrigerator.

Make sure morels are dry and firm, but still springy.

What do morel mushrooms taste like?

If you’ve never tasted a morel mushroom, you’ll find that they have an earthy, nutty flavor.

Ohio State University Extension warns that morels, though edible, can cause illness in some people. Consume only a small amount the first time you eat them.

How can I cook morels?

Oregon State University Extension says that morel mushrooms are great for sauces, stews and for stuffing. Keep in mind that wild mushrooms should not be eaten raw. Fried morels are one of the most popular ways to cook the mushrooms.

Cut off the stem, especially the dirty part. You can cut morels in half lengthwise, and in quarters if you so desire.

Here are some morel mushroom recipes to try:

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