Are you ready to try your hand at hunting for morel mushrooms? If so you need some tips to find morel mushrooms so you will be more successful. These delicious mushrooms can be found each Spring across the nation and the hunt is just as much fun as the meal.
Here are the hunting tips that you should know before heading out into the woods.
Pick the Right Date
Timing is everything in mushroom hunting and a few days will be the difference between failure and huge success. One of the best tips to find morel mushrooms is to go on the right date.
The right day depends on the weather more than it does the calendar, though in the Midwest we target Mother's Day as the default weekend. Morels will grow once the soil starts to heat up in the Spring, but only when there is plenty of moisture around for them. Too dry or too cold and they will generally not be plentiful.
What you are looking for is the first few times during the Spring where you had a nice rain followed by a warm day. If you are comfortable going outside in only a long-sleeved shirt or a light jacket, it's warm enough for morels to grow.
In addition to the weather, you should consider the soil temperature. Now I don't expect you to measure it but just use your head. The South sides of a hill in Spring are warmer than the North sides. That means that earlier in the season you are more likely to have luck on the South side and later in the season you are more likely to have luck on the North side. The tops of a hill in the woods can produce any time.
So, the right date is one that is:
- in Spring
- after rain
- South early, North late
Bring The Right Supplies
You don't need to bring many things to go mushroom hunting but here are some things that you should have.
First, bring a bag to collect them in. I always carry a spare for when I find a whole bunch (I'm an optimist), but I'll admit that is unusual in my neck of the woods. The bag should breathe. Don't use a plastic bag from the grocery store if you can help it. On a sunny day it will get hot and sweaty in there. Your mushrooms will be happier if they can see out.
Second, remember you're going into the woods. That means things like thorns and ticks, so jeans and long sleeves are a must. Bug spray is also important, especially if you are in an area known for ticks. The nice thing about Spring is that you won't find many flying bugs this time of year.
Third, once you get out there find yourself a good stick. Grab a stick about 3 feet long or so. This will be an invaluable tool for peeking under the foliage on the woods floor without using your hands all the time. It's amazing how many more mushrooms you can find when you can effectively peek under the plant life at your feet.
So, the supplies you need are:
- a breathable bag
- suitable clothing
- bug spray
- a stick
Find The Right Area
So, what are some of the best areas?
Check out the trees. Any time you see a dead or dying tree it will be worth a look. Even if it's laying on the ground, check it out. For standing trees, look not only at the base of the tree, but under the canopy, especially in the case of a dying tree. Some trees are better than others, and ash, elm, apple (old) and oak are the best. I find a few morels at the base of huge oak trees every year. I dont' know why, and I don't know why there aren't more. They tend to be very close to the trunk. Ash and elm can be even better. My favorite spots of all are around dying elm trees. By that I mean the bark is falling off but not completely off yet. That's fertile ground and I have taken over 100 mushrooms from these sites many times.
Think like a fungus. That means you want it moist. After a long slow rain you could find mushrooms anywhere but certain places might hold them even when it seems dry. I like to look in natural ravines in the woods. These are the places water collects or flows and I can grab a few mushrooms here even when the weather hasn't been kind to other drier spots.
Having made these two points I have to point out that I have found morels in the strangest places, so just keep your head down and keep an eye out as you go. You might find them where you didn't expect. One year I even found one single morel in my backyard while mowing. Strange.
So, the best spots are:
- dead trees
- dying trees
- ash, elm, oak, apple trees
- moist spots
Picking the Mushroom
When you do find morel mushrooms and are ready to pick them, try to pick off the mushroom and leave the roots intact. They just might produce again. Leave the dirt in the forest. If you did pull up the roots, snap them off and leave them there.
If you come across morels that are getting too old leave them alone. They will create future morels. A good rule of thumb is that the morel should look perfectly fresh. You will often see some that are either just starting to shrivel up due to dryness or age or those that are just starting to mold or are brittle. If they are just starting to shrivel but otherwise look OK, go ahead and grab it. When you get home and soak it in some water it will be fine. As for the other, they are best left in th woods.
So, here' how to pick them:
- pick only the mushroom
- leave the roots alone
- ignore the old ones
You Should Also Know
Here are some more tips to find morels that you should know.
First, beware the false morel. You don't want to pick and eat this guy. Check out pictures online if you don't know what real morels look like so you can find them. Also, don't take a bite of a morel before it's cooked. They were not meant to be eaten raw and can make you sick.
Second, when you get home put them in a sink or big bowl full of salt water for a few hours. Any bugs living inside will scurry out and leave them cleaner. Then, I always slice the in half exposing the middle and tap them lightly on the side of the sink to clean them. Lay on a paper towel to allow to dry for a few minutes and store them in the refrigerator for up to a week or so.
Third, you can find all sorts of recipes but my favorite is to dip them in an egg and milk mixture and then into corn flake crumbs and fry in butter in a big old skillet. Once they are golden brown on both sides they are done. A small pile of these next to a steak is an annual tradition that is awesome.
Finally, different people react differently to morels. If you haven't had them, take it easy the first time you eat them. I suggest a small serving. If you're good to go the next day, you should be fine.
There you go. You now have some important tips to find morels that will help you on your next mushroom hunting trip.