A guide to morel mushroom hunting

June 11, 2014

By Nathan Crock

Inquirer Correspondent

Morel mushrooms are a type of mushroom that can be found in this region only during a select time of the year. Late March through May is when these wrinkled; honey comb looking sponges emerge from the earth. They appear in three different colors which include black, gray, and yellow. They emanate a woodsy, earth like fragrance. Morels generally grow anywhere near direct sunlight that provides a lot of moisture at the same time. They are often reported being found along the edge of woods and along fence rows. Good spots to look are around dead ash, elm, or oak trees. Sometimes they are even stumbled upon in ones yard, or in the ditch, among other unconventional places. When hunting morels one should dress for the occasion. Being in wooded areas means that you will be exposed to thorn bushes, thick brush, and poison ivy among other things. Since this is the case jeans and a jacket or long sleeve shirt would be ideal.

Since water and mud is also encountered while out tall boots are also recommended. One will also need a mushroom hunting bag. A mesh bag or onion bag is preferred as they have holes in them that allow for spores to fall out and back down to the ground where they can produce new mushrooms. If an onion or mesh bag cannot be obtained using a plastic grocery bag will work just fine. Just make sure to shake the mushrooms off thoroughly before placing in the bag. When one is found it is best to pick it from the bottom of the stem being careful not to pull the root out of the ground as the root provides important nutrients vital to more mushrooms growing around it.

When finding one it is best to back track a bit and look carefully around you as it said that if you find one then there are more around it. There are three reasons why people hunt these mushrooms. The first of which is the thrill of the hunt. Often hours can go by on a hunt with no luck but then a minute later you will come across one and the excitement you feel keeps you going. The thrill of the hunt brings families and friends together for a group activity outdoors on a nice spring day. The second reason for hunting them is eating them.

Morel mushrooms are considered to be a rare delicacy amongst chefs. Morel mushrooms have their own distinct flavor that is much different than just a regular grocery store mushroom. The third reason for hunting morels is to collect and sell them. Selling morels can be bringing in lots of cash as they generally go from anywhere between $12-20 a pound. Selling to individuals is an option or selling to grocery stores, or national chains other options. During the off season the stores will freeze dry them and sell them packaged.

When storing mushrooms the correct storing and cleaning method is key. After finding morels it is best to rinse off and place in a container of water. From there add lots of salt, put a lid on and let them sit in the refrigerator for at least twenty four hours. They generally stay good in the refrigerator for a week. After that they either need to be dumped or frozen so they can be thawed out and eaten in the future. The most common way to cook these mushrooms is by coating them in flour and cooking them on a stove top skillet with real butter or margarine. They can be seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic salt, or anything else you would like. They are best enjoyed eating by themselves but some people prefer them with omelets or on pizza, amongst other things. Morel mushrooms can be found into early June so get out and try to find yourself some while there is still time.