Morels are delicious mushrooms and one of the most desired wild mushrooms in the world. You can buy them dried in stores such as Walmart, but a mere 2 oz (57 grams) will cost you $24! This is because morels aren’t generally farmed – they are gathered in the wild. I am writing about them in April because they are starting to pop up in New England!
Let me start with a disclaimer. Picking mushrooms in the wild is never completely safe. You could accidentally pick a poisonous look-a-like, or the area in which you find a mushroom may have pesticides. There are many factors that can potentially make mushroom hunting unsafe and I don’t recommend that you go out on your own without an expert. Luckily, there are many courses and groups that you can join that specialize in mushrooms.
Remember, mushroom hunters are either bold or old. You can’t be both. Do not take chances and do your research before eating anything in the wild. It only takes one wrong bite to potentially end your life. That being said, if you are careful and well-trained, mushroom picking can be a really fun and yummy hobby.
I have been mushroom picking for as long as I can remember. By the age of seven, my dad had started lecturing me for not picking mushrooms using the knife he gave me. Unfortunately, I never grew out of this bad habit. I keep picking the entire mushroom which adds to the messy cleanup at home. When you are starting out, however, there are benefits to picking the entire mushroom. The stem and roots are a great way to help identify certain kinds.
Now that I have gabbed your virtual ears off, here is a picture of a morel. I stole it from Untamed Feast, a great website for mycophiliacs and foragers.
Morels are a really easy mushroom to identify. They have a wrinkly cap and they come in several different shades of brown. Unfortunately, there are toxic look-a-like mushrooms but they are easy to identify. Just like puff ball mushrooms, you need to cut a morel in half to make sure it’s edible.
“A true morel will be hollow inside from the tip of the cap to the bottom of the stem.”Mushroom Appreciation
If the mushroom is hollow on the inside, such as the one in the picture above, it is an edible morel. If it isn’t, or if you aren’t sure, do not take the risk. It’s not worth it. I have thrown away so many mushrooms that I was 99% sure about, because that 1% risk just wasn’t something I wanted to mess with. I plan to be an old mushroom hunter – I get my adrenaline kicks doing other dangerous activities.
Where to Find Them
“Morels live in and on the edge of forested areas. Look for ash, aspen, elm, and oak trees, around which morels often grow. Early in the spring as the ground is warming, you’ll find them on south-facing slopes in fairly open areas. As the season progresses, go deeper into the woods and onto north-facing slopes.”Field and Stream
Whether you already have mushroom identifying experience or not, I suggest that you join a group or community. I am a member of several foraging and mushroom hunting groups that have taught me a lot. Of course, you shouldn’t eat something just because a stranger online told you it’s safe. But these groups can help confirm your own IDs and give you tips on how to cook and find mushrooms. If you are located in Southern New England like me, I definitely recommend this Facebook group.
You can find more articles about mushrooms here. It always helps me to watch videos about mushrooms rather than just read and see photos. So please find two videos below that are super helpful for identifying and locating morels!