The Hunt for Mushrooms: Facts on Morels
© by Jennifer McLeod writing as jenjen0703, all rights reserved.
Hunting for Mushrooms
I am an avid mushroom hunter and love to traipse through the woods, searching for Morels. I usually will spend at least a half day searching when I go on a hunt.
Mushroom hunting is an enjoyable activity and is something you can do with your family. This fun pastime has become a yearly tradition for myself and my family. Hunting for mushrooms is great exercise, and hiking in the woods can be extremely relaxing.
What makes mushroom hunting so much fun is the competition that happens between the hunters. Each person has their own bag for carrying the morels. I laugh when I hear my children yelling, "I found one! Oh, look, there's another one!"
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Telling the Difference
There are many mushrooms that we should not eat because they are poisonous. Telling the difference between non-edible mushrooms and morels is not difficult. Morels have distinctive appearance, and once you know what you are looking for, you will have no troubles finding them. They also look like a sponge and have a brain-like appearance.
The most difficult aspect of mushroom hunting is to figure out where they are growing. Morels like certain soil types and prefer to grow in a partially shaded place. Searching for morels is a hit-and-miss situation because they do not grow everywhere. But, once you find a few, chances are there will be more in the immediate area.
Black Morels sprout earlier than the rest of the morels. They may appear gray in color when they first sprout and are more common than others. They range from a half inch to a foot tall in size.
They are also more likely to cause allergic reactions than the other morels, so if you have never eaten them before, start with a few bites to see how your body reacts. Allergic reactions can cause the following symptoms: upset stomach, loss of muscle coordination, and an intensified reaction when mixed with alcohol.
Black morels are also called by the following names:
- Early Morels
- Grey Morels
- Burn-Over Morels
- Narrow-Capped Morels
- Witch's Caps
- Johnny Jump-Ups
Yellow Morels can grow up to a foot in height and can vary in colors including whitish, yellow, gray, or honey brown. Out of the three types of morels, yellow morels sprout last in the season. They also have the best flavor out of all the morels.
Another interesting fact about yellow morels is that they can grow to be extremely large and have a thick stem on them.
Yellow morels are also known as:
- Giant Morels
- Big Foots
- Thick Footed Morels
Half Free Morels
Half Free Morels sprout after Black Morels season has started and continues into the Yellow Morels season.
This type of mushroom is similar to the other two; however, the heads on Half-Free Morels are tiny in comparison to Black Morels and Yellow Morels.
Yellow Morels are also called:
- Cows Heads
Where to Look
Morel mushrooms grow best in moist soil, so if spring has been a dry season, they will be more difficult to find. Daytime and nighttime temperatures need to be warm for morels to grow.
Morels prefer to grow in certain places, around certain types of trees, and in certain types of soil. Learning these factors will make the hunt much easier. Places they like to grow include:
- Apple orchards
- South and north-facing slopes
- In sandy soil
- Near wood piles and sawmills
- Near dead trees
- Near cottonwood, poplar, tulip poplar, ash, oak, Hawthorn, and Douglas fir trees
- Near railroad beds
- When picking morels, do not pull them out of the ground. Break them off at the base, so as not to pull the roots up.
- Lightly shake the morel in your hand before putting it into your bag. This helps the spores to fall to the ground, helping it to reseed.
How to Look
Morels like to hide under leaves and underneath dead trees. The best time to find them is right after it rains. Rain makes it easier to find morels because the leaves become wet and heavy, which exposes the mushrooms more. Sometimes, they can be found growing on hills. It is easier to find them on hills if you search for them while facing the hill because they are closer to eye level. If you are facing downhill, morels are more difficult to see.
Be sure to carry a bread bag or some other type of bag. It would be a good idea to take an extra bag or two with you, just in case you get lucky.
Also, if you are like me and have to visit state-owned property or a friend's house to hunt for morels, be careful not to yell out, "I found some!" The reason for being quiet is so that others will not hear your excitement and try to get in on the action.
Hunting for morels is not always successful. You may be looking for awhile before you find any.
Before you can cook and eat morels, they must be cleaned first. Put them into a bowl of salt water and soak them for 24 hours. This will kill any tiny bugs that might be in them. After that, rinse them well.
There are many ways to cook morels, but I am going to give you my personal recipe.Using a Zip-Lock bag, pour Drake's Mix into it and toss some morels into the bag. Shake the bag until the morels are coated well.
In a hot frying pan, melt enough butter to thickly coat the bottom of it. Fry the morels, rolled in Drakes Mix, until they become browned and crispy. While they are frying, sprinkle some salt and pepper onto the morels to add some flavor.
Also, morels can be frozen for future use in dishes that call for mushrooms. They can also be dried, but they shrink considerably. You will need several times more mushrooms to get a good amount of dried ones.
Good luck on your hunt! Hopefully, you will come to enjoy hunting for morels as much as I do.
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