Morel Mushroom Hunting Tips and Recipes
Morel mushroom hunting is a nice springtime hobby that gives anyone an opportunity to get out and welcome spring. However, I should not speak lightly of this hobby, because there are some people who are intense mushroom hunters. Not only do they enjoy the treasure hunt, they also like to eat the prize of their hunt, the morel.
Morel Mushroom Growing Season
The morel mushroom season varies for different regions in the United States. Typically, however, mushrooms begin to make their appearance in most regions around the spring months. For example, in the Midwest you can expect to start looking for mushrooms from late April to early May, with the season ending by the beginning of June.
The growing cycle of the morel is dependent upon certain variables, such as ground temperature, rain, and air temperature. You can usually begin to see mushrooms appearing in wooded areas when daytime temperatures stay around 60 to 70 degrees and nighttime weather goes no lower than the 40s.
With the wind to blow the spores to different fertile areas, the spores will germinate and begin to form an underground network of threadlike, tubular branches, that will hold the fruit or flower of the fungi, which we all like to eat.
In Iowa, the first type of morel mushroom to make their appearance, are the grays. As you can expect, these mushrooms are gray in color. Then as the mushroom season moves closer to summer, you will begin to see the appearance of the yellow morels.
Mushroom Hunting Tools
You really do not need many tools to begin your mushroom hobby.
- A mesh bag to hold the mushrooms. A mesh bag allows the mushrooms to breathe, and it can keep the bugs down to a minimum.
- A hiking stick-I use it to help brush away the dead leaves and to make my way through the woods.
- Good walking shoes
- Tick Spray-Deet, Cutter
Where to Find Mushrooms
You can find the yellow and gray morel mushrooms growing near logs, under decomposing leaves, under dying elm trees, ash trees, popular trees, pine trees, or in old apple orchards.
However, morels do not require trees, to grow. In fact, there have been atypical places where morels have been discovered. For example, they have been found in parking lots, ditches, on golf courses, in an outdoor plant and other odd places.
Nevertheless, most experienced mushroom hunters will rely on the wooded areas, as well as, hitting their secret location(s) year after year until the area dries up. If that happens, they are not detoured. They will begin a search for new hidden, undisturbed areas. You probably noticed that I stated “secret location” above. A shroomer is not likely to share their mushroom location with another shroomer. It is probably a capitalist view of “supply and demand” that will keep him from sharing his secret location. The demand is high, the supply is limited, do not share!
The False Morel
The false morel is poisonous. It is distinctively different from the typical morel mushroom. It truly has an ugly looking appearance, with a flat, brain-like cap that is reddish or brownish red in color. One sure way to determine if you have a false morel is by slicing the mushroom in half, lengthwise. If the stem is solid and meaty, you have a false morel. In comparison, if you slice an edible morel lengthwise, you will notice that it is hollow from stem to cap.
Please note, do not eat these mushrooms raw, because they can cause gastro-intestinal irritation. By cooking the morel mushroom, it helps to reduce the possible gastro-intestinal upset, and eliminate the hydrazine in the mushroom. The most common way to cook morels is by pan-frying them in butter. The recipe is rather simple. You will need:
- Cracker crumbs (or flour)
Cut your mushrooms in half and soak them in cold water, and clean to get rid of any dirt and possible bugs in the mushrooms. Rinse and pat the mushrooms dry. (If you decide on a salt bath, do not leave them in the salt bath to long, because the mushrooms will absorb the salt).
Beat the eggs in a bowl, until well blended. Crumble up some saltine crackers in a plastic bag, than take a rolling pin to make a fine crumb breading. Dip the mushroom halves in the egg. Then coat each mushroom with the cracker crumbs.
Preheat the skillet with butter. Once the skillet is hot enough, place the mushrooms in the pan and cook for approximately 5 minutes. Turning when needed. We place the finished mushrooms onto a plate covered with paper towels, to remove excess butter. Once all mushrooms are cooked, it is time to eat.
It took me a while to figure out how to freeze mushrooms. However, I found the best way to have these mushrooms in the winter is to freeze them in this manner.
Prepare the mushroom using the above recipe. Partially cook the mushroom for only a couple of minutes. Remove them from the pan and place them on a cookie sheet, and freeze. Once frozen, transfer the mushrooms to a freezer bag.
When you are ready to cook, just heat them up for a few minutes before serving.
I personally do not can morel mushrooms. Why? Morel mushrooms have toxic hydrazines. When you cook the mushroom these toxins usually evaporate into the air. However, when you can mushrooms, these toxins have nowhere to evaporate too, so the toxins which go back into the mushrooms, which can form botulism.
- If you are a first time mushroom hunter, go with an experienced mushroom hunter who knows what the morel looks like.
- Experienced mushroom hunters are referred to as "shroomers".
- Avoid False Morels-these mushrooms are poisonous.
To conclude, for those who are up to the morel mushroom hunt, or are just waiting for the hunt to begin, I wish you great rewards, and a plentiful bounty. Bon appétit!
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