By: Jason Herbert
The annual Morel mushroom craze is sweeping most of the country and you can include me. I’m nowhere near an expert mushroom hunter but I've had consistent luck looking for Morel’s by simply following advice from the old timers. For starters, they grow in forest areas in the spring, which varies from location to location. I always look near dead and downed trees because the mushrooms love decaying root material.
Morel’s don't necessarily like big hardwood oak and hickory stands, but rather softer "whitish" looking trees like ash and elms. Also look in old orchards, burnt areas, pine stands and poplar clumps.
When mushrooms are found, be sure to have any helpers come take a look to get a visual reference of what they look like. It's also important to stop and look because it's almost a guarantee that there are more than just one in close proximity. They tend to grow in lines or "veins" so you want to try to see a pattern. When you do, find a few points of reference and leave no stone, or in this case, leaf un-turned.
I pinch them off at the base to avoid getting dirt in the rest of them I’ve already picked. It is recommended that you carry your harvested Morels in a mesh sack as they propagate through spore dispersal. So as you are walking around the ones in your sack can spread their spores for future mushrooms. Also, avoid the temptation to take every one you see. Instead, leave some for future growth.
We all know about poisonous mushrooms and Morel’s have their poisonous cousins too, the False Morel which looks kinda like a Morel and can make you sick or even kill you.
I cook them 3 different ways- sautéed in butter- breaded in flour and sautéed in butter, or breaded in flour and deep fried. I always slice them in half and soak for a while. If I'm cooking ASAP, I only wash them in water. If I'm drying them in my dehydrator, I soak for at least an hour and then dry ASAP. Dried they'll last for a while- but... never have a chance to make it- YUMMY!
The last piece of advice we can offer is to keep looking! Usually the black Morels come first followed by the yellows or whites. As always, be safe, have fun and enjoy another one of Mother Nature's wonderful gifts!
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