The Elusive Morel Mushroom- Tips for Hunting

Picture taken by Angi Dailey
Picture taken by Angi Dailey

Our family is full of treasure hunters by heart. We like finding the best bargains and we love competition, so there’s IMGP4569 (1)nothing like the high of finding a rare delicious morsel popping up out of the ground for FREE. I know what you’re thinking….”Wow, what excellent style you had.” Hahahaha! It’s okay, you can laugh or just stare with your jaw open (that’s what my husband did). That hair….I think I was channeling my inner mushroom. But that outfit too….yeah, I can’t make an excuse for that. I was just so proud of finding the first mushroom of the season. I grew up with 4 brothers in the country, not a farm, but definitely the sticks. It was a good 20 min. to any town with a gas station or store. It was a whole lot of dirt roads, ticks, digging up worms for fishing, catching crawdads and yes, hunting mushrooms. Every spring, when we’d had enough rain and enough sun for the umbrella plants (May Apples) to come up, we’d grab our plastic bags, stuff them into our tight jean pockets, spray head to toe with bug spray and head out to our favorite hunting grounds to search for morels.

IMGP4567Obviously style wasn’t much better for my dad in the early 90’s, but look at all those morels! I am by no means an expert, but here are some things I’ve learned through my experience and research.

1.) Once spring comes and you’ve had some good rain and sun, check to see if people are finding mushrooms where you live. It’s amazing what you can find by Googling. Start with something like: Morel Mushroom Hunting Kansas City, MO 2015 and go from there. There are several sites that track people’s findings and it’s a good way to know if they are out where you live. I am in the Midwest and our season is long over (end of April), but my brother lives near the border of Wyoming/Idaho and his season is just now starting (a month later!).

2.) Hit up friends and family with wooded land to search. And if you find morels on their property, share the wealth as a thank you. Do not attempt to cross Private Property or No Trespassing lines to hunt. People are very protective of their land and you don’t want to die. Morels are delicious, but it’s just not worth it.

3.) You will definitely want to spray with bug spray and dress to where your legs and arms are covered (less space for ticks to attach and more coverage from brush and branches). Wear sturdy tennis shoes or boots. And get a bag for collecting your finds, a mesh bag or potato sack work best, but you can use whatever you have.

4.) Start by looking around the bases of ash, dead elm, tulip poplar, sycamore and dead apple trees. We also seemed to have good luck near muddy river banks and fallen trees, but morels can also be found where you least expect them, in your front yard or your Iris bed.

5.) Once you spot a morel, slowly start scanning around it to see if there are more. If you move in too quickly, you run the risk of stepping on one or missing some. Morels tend to grow in patches so if you find one, the chances of finding more are good. Every mushroom hunters dream is to find the sugar spot or the mother lode.

6.) When picking morels, pinch the base of the stem and pull it upwards. Brush off extra dirt or debris and gently place it in bag you brought. Although not quite as flavorful, the stems are good to eat as well.

7.) If in doubt, throw it out. Even some seasoned mushroom hunters can be fooled by a false morels. You may not die if you eat them, but you certainly won’t feel very good. Read more about identifying them HERE and HERE. If the mushrooms look brainy and are disconnected, it is probably a false morel or if the top pops off easily from the base, it is a false thimble morel (these can be very tricky). Be careful and do your research. Real morels have a connected honeycomb pattern, as pictured below.

Picture taken by Angi Dailey
Picture taken by Angi Dailey

8.) If some of your morels are a little dry, don’t worry, they will re-hydrate! Wash off the dirt, cut into desired size and soak in lightly salted water. This will also help to kill any little bugs that might be using the mushroom as its home.

9.) Find a recipe you want to try and enjoy! I have used them in pasta and on pizza, but my favorite way to enjoy them is a simple saute in butter or FRIED: Like THIS, but with Saltine crackers. YUM!

morelplate

10.) If you were unable to find any morels this year, you can look online and purchase them on ebay or amazon. If in season, some people will sell them on the side of the road or list them on ebay. If out of season, you will probably only find dried ones . Sometimes you can even find them at your local grocery store, but they are extra pricey. For a cheap fix, when I’m craving them, I make fried zucchini. It doesn’t have the same meaty flavor as morels, but the texture is close and they are still pretty yummy.

IMGP4566My brother holds the record of finding the smallest. Look how tiny that thing is! I thought this adventuring was a normal part of everyone’s childhood and then I went off to college. Once spring hit, I was itching to go out hunting, but very few people even knew what I was talking about when I mentioned morels. A little piece of my naive heart broke for them.

I live in Kansas City now and the hunting window is so small that I often miss it, since my kids are too young to go out with me and my “me” time is very limited. This year, I was hoping my dad would call me up and say that he found some and invite us over, but that didn’t happen. He was shut out (our term for a year when you don’t find a single morel). What DID happen was my friend, Laura sent me a text with a picture of a mushroom that she found growing in her yard while she was mowing and asked me if it was the kind you eat. It absolutely was and my heart got excited. She doesn’t like mushrooms, so of course I would take them off her hands. And then she broke the bad news and said that she had already thrown them away. I was tempted to dig them out of the trash, but I drug my family over to take a look around her yard. We had a little laugh, but I mourned those fallen mushrooms. Did you know that morels sell locally for around $25/lb. and dried at Dean & Deluca for $300/lb.?! We looked around until we found a couple that were salvageable. I could tell my husband was excited to find his first one, even if it was in a yard in the middle of the city. I was not shut out this year. Do you have any tips to share? What is your favorite way to eat morels?

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

 For more useful information on Morels, check out this website: The Great Morel. Happy Hunting!

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