Hunting and foraging for wild edible mushrooms can be the most fun. You get out in nature, getting great exercise and lots of fresh air and sunshine. Then you hopefully come home with the makings of some very good meals. And when it comes to morel mushrooms you are coming home with some of the tastiest and priciest morsels you can buy. I have seen morels in my area selling for $30 a pound so I guess this seasonal hobby can be a good side hustle too, if you care to sell your findings.
I am actually going out morel hunting today (and for the next few weeks) so I thought I would share some tips for finding these delicious shrooms. Not only are they one of the tastiest mushrooms they are one of the most recognizable. And unlike many other mushrooms species, their look alikes…don’t really look that much alike, at least in my opinion. They are easy to identify with certainty. Happy Hunting!
Tips for finding morel mushrooms….
- Identify the trees associated with morels. Morels like tulip poplar, ash, beech, maple, long dead apple trees, and dead or dying elm trees. Once you identify one of these trees, look up and see how far the canopy reaches, or would reach if it had leaves. Search within the canopy because morels pop up along the root lines.
- Morels like disturbed ground. Mycelia produce mushrooms in response to environmental stress, so morels are often found around quarries, burn sites, creek beds, old flood plains, washes, and areas where logging or mining once thrived. Check news sites for stories about wildfires from 1-2 years back, abandoned orchards, and old quarry sites for leads.
- Morels like loamy soil. Loam contains clay, sand, and decaying organic substances. It is very rich soil and can often be found by creek beds and old forests.
- Check out southern facing slopes and hills. These slopes get sun first and therefore get warmer, faster in the spring. This will be where they pop first.
- Check near the Mayapples and skunk cabbage. Many successful hunters often find morels near and under these plants. So if you see them, check for the elusive mushrooms. They are also an indicator of when morels should be popping up…when the mayapple started to flatten out, look for the morels.
- Check the temperature. The soil temps need to be consistently above 40 degrees for morel mushroom growth. Once the daily temps are between 40-60 degrees, get out hunting, especially in the days after a good rain.
- Keep track of of sites where you found morels. Take pictures and use a smartphone and latitude longitude apps to log your exact location. This will help you find these same sites in the following years. A field journal is also a very good idea so you can describe areas, weather, and plant findings.
- Dress appropriately for tick season. Make sure you are wearing the right kind of clothes and that you bring tweezers and peppermint essential oil so that you can remove ticks on site if you find one has dug into you.
- Bring mesh bags such as the ones that apples and oranges come in or buy a mesh carrying bag to carry your mushrooms. This way they can breath and the spores can fall as you walk and hopefully result in mushroom propagation. Also if you have produce cartons from strawberries, other berries, or cherry tomatoes…put the bottom mushrooms in them to keep them from being crushed.
- Carry a phone, map, GPS, or compass or all of the above to avoid getting lost. This is especially true if you are well off the beaten path in state park.
- It’s also not a bad idea to carry mace, bear spray, or pepper spray. You never know when you could run into a wild animal or an unstable person. My teenage son actually had some run ins with some very aggressive adult men when he was going fishing at a certain spot along a creek. Turns out they were mushroom hunters and were being aggressive about what they deemed their spot. You just never know!
- Be on the lookout for other edibles such as ramps and fiddleheads!
- Eat up! The flavor of morels pairs well with other spring finds, like peas, asparagus, spinach, ramps, and sweet onions. After soaking them in lightly salted water for 10 minutes to remove any bugs, slice and fry them in melted butter until browned. Another tasty preparation is to dip them in milk and flour or an egg-milk mixture and cracker crumbs, and fry them. Delish!
I hope this inspires you get out and try to find some morels, either in Ohio like me, or in your own area. It can be fun and greatly rewarding.