Spring is here and so the hunt for morels begin. There is plenty of Michigan public land that can offer great mushroom hunting opportunities in the North and South Peninsula.
Morels are renown for being one of the tastiest of wild mushrooms that can be easily foraged. The taste is described to be a hearty-meat like flavor.
How to Identify:
DISCLAIMER: Do Not Eat Any Mushrooms Found Based Solely On The Identification Found Here. Take Precaution To Eating Any Wild Foraged Mushroom As There Are Many Similar Mushrooms That Can Be Poisonous!
There are two different types of morel mushrooms, the black morel and yellow/ white morels. Distinguished by the color of the caps ridge. White/ Yellow morels also can be slightly larger than the blacks.
The black morels are the first to appear and are typically found in hardwood forest. Yellow or white morels tend to appear later in the spring and have a more diverse growing area.
They key features to identify morels from other mushrooms and false morels is the cap shape and hollow interior.
The caps of morels are very distinct being ridged and pitted. The caps will be attached to the stem. Once the cap is identified the next step is to check if the inside is hollow. A true morel when cut in half will be hollow inside the cap and stem. Most Morels cap is longer than the stem.
False Morels are considered poisonous, and can fool the uneducated forager. Two ways to identify a false morel is a cap and stem check. A false morel when cut will not have a hollow stem, and instead be full of a cotton like fiber. The stem will also connect to the cap at the top. The cap will be wrinkled rather than pitted.
Black morels will appear around the last weeks of April as the ground starts to warm, with the best time to hunt during the first two weeks of May.
The white/ yellow morels usually wait until May to appear, Mothers Day being a prime weekend. The second and third week of May is said to be the best hunting time.
This may be the hardest part about hunting morels. There is no definite place, and the hunting ground can change yearly. A place you might have hit the jackpot last year might not have any the following. Morels can be found in a wide range of different landscapes from the woods, fields, to even the side of roads.
Although this leaves a large area to cover there are a few things to lookout for that can at least get you started on the hunt.
Black morels are more finicky than their yellow cousins and tend to be found in hardwood forest. There is argument that they can be found around certain trees like Ash, Fruit, or Aspen while others argue it doesn’t matter the tree. Along with hardwood forest they can sometimes be found in lawns and fields as well.
White/ Yellow morels have a more diverse habitat ranging from forest, fields, fence rows, railroad tracks, and floodplains. They also do tend to be more common around dying trees like Elm, fruit tree, and Maple.
Once you find a morel the best way to pick a morel is by pinching or cutting. Pulling a morel from the ground will cause you to pull up to much dirt and risk destroying the mushroom. Pinching works best for black morels while cutting works best for the meatier and bigger white/ yellow morels.
Things You Need:
A mesh bag or container. The best thing to use while picking morels is a mesh bag. The mesh allows for the mushroom to breathe after its been picked and help slow the process of rot, which will help extend the shelf life of the tasty morel. Another reason mesh is a good idea is that it allows for the spores to shake free while you walk and disperse into the habitat the morel was found, leading to a higher chance of finding them in the same spot next year.
Pants and long sleeves. While out on your hunt for morels you may come across brambles, nettles, poison ivy, mosquitoes, and ticks. Pants and long sleeves will help protect you from the occasional scratch or bite a lot better than shorts and a t-shirt will.
If your going to hunt in unfamiliar woods it is advisable that you bring a compass and tell a friend where you are going. While hunting for mushrooms it is also recommended that you obey laws and don’t trespass out of respect.
From The Woods To The Kitchen:
Words of Warning: DO NOT eat any wild mushroom without properly identifying and cooking first. Cooking destroys the irritants that cause reactions. Alcohol will increase the reaction of mushrooms. Small children and elderly are the most likely to have a reaction. Eat a small amount and then wait a few hours to see if there is any reaction. If no reaction, enjoy!
So you found yourself some morels, now what?
You can cook them up and eat them now or dry them for later.
Morels when properly dried will last many years before going bad. There are many different methods from dehydrators, air drying, to oven drying. After drying the morels can be stored in paper bags, jars, or vacuum sealed.
If you don't want to wait the easiest method is to sauté in butter or olive oil. While sautéing you can add whatever spices you want. Afterwards serve with steak or eat them alone.