Morel mushrooms are one of those little forest gems that mushroom lovers pine over the long, cold winter. Every spring, foragers, mushroom enthusiasts, gourmet chefs, and even my husband, disappear into the woods to wander or gladly get lost for a few hours. Mushroom hunters claim it’s like a treasure hunt.
The Unique Flavor Of A Morel Mushroom
Morchella may be one of the most sought-after wild mushrooms in the world. Food connoisseurs consider them a true delicacy. Their earthy, smokey, meaty flavor makes them a wonder all by themselves.
It’s been said that it’s the mushroom that even mushroom haters love.
These forest gems are incredibly versatile and their unique flavor only heightens and adds great depth to any dish that includes them. When sauteed, don’t substitute the butter. It only enhances their incredible flavor.
Umami is a term used to describe the taste of these treasures. Have you ever eaten food and had a tough time describing the taste? That’s umami. It’s when all four basic flavors flood your taste buds at once. That’s the best way to describe their taste.
Where Morel Mushrooms Grow
Morels live and grow in and on the edge of forested areas. Temperature and humidity play an enormous role in how they will grow and the best time to hunt them. 2020 wasn’t a significant year overall for mushroom seekers, but why are we not surprised.
The earth warms up in late March to mid-May here in Indiana. As temperatures climb to 60-65 degrees, it’s just about time to hunt mushrooms.
I interviewed a seasoned morel mushroom hunter, and he agreed morels grow around ash, aspen, elm, and oak trees. You’ll notice them on south-facing slopes in open areas. As the season progresses, you’ll need to work deeper into the woods and watch on north-facing hills.
Morel Mushroom Hunting-Tips from the Experts
“It’s kind of like magic. You can wonder the woods and hunt for hours and not notice a thing. But as soon as you discover one and your eyes refocus, you realize the forest floor is rich in them!”
Damaged elm trees, down or decaying, show to be desirable places to hunt morels. May Apples and Jack in the Pulpit plants are clues because the soil is ideal for morels to grow as easily.
“I look for the Yellow Poplar or Tulip trees.” A mushroom enthusiast told me. “I usually find some growing under these.”
Also, remember that all mushrooms are not edible. So do your research and never eat anything you are not sure about.
What to Bring Morel Mushroom Hunting
Take along a basket with tiny holes to allow the spores to fall through and cultivate new mushrooms. A long stick is essential to hold back smaller branches along with a knife to cut the mushrooms. You always want to cut them low to the earth. Never pull out the roots. It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re on an adventure, so don’t forget to bring along water and a snack.
How-To Clean Morel Mushrooms
It’s important to note here that you don’t want to wash or submerge the morels until just before you are ready to cook them. Mushrooms are like little sponges and will absorb water.
Step 1. Shaking,
You want to shake off as much dirt and debris as possible. A small paper bag comes in handy for this. Place the mushrooms inside and gently shake back and forth. Always lift mushrooms from the bag and not dump them into a bowl.
Step 2. Rinsing,
Remember that mushrooms are a sponge, so you don’t what to rinse them until you are ready to use them. Place morels in a large bowl of cold water. Some mushroom hunters always add a bit of salt to their water to draw out insects. Swish the mushrooms around gently. The swishing is helpful in cleaning the tiny holes of the mushrooms. If the water is dirty, dump it out and repeat it one more time. Lift the mushrooms out of the water.
Step 3. Drying,
Place the cleaned morels on a cotton kitchen towel or layers of paper towels. Gently pat dry by rolling them lightly.
Prepare the morels as you choose. My husband’s favorite is simply sauteed in butter. If you are not ready to cook them or want to preserve them for later, consider drying them.
For the Love of Morels and Love of the Hunt
“Morels are everywhere yet impossible to find.”
So, whether morel mushroom hunting is something you do alone or an event on the next time family hike, make it a scavenger hunt.
Keep an eye out for these incredible little edible treasures. And if you’re not a mushroom lover like myself, you can sell them for a pretty penny!
Tell me in the comments, whether you’re a mushroom lover or like me and totally despise them.