Hunting Morel Mushrooms
How to Find Morel Mushrooms
Morel mushrooms are elusive to say the least! They are found in the woods, but the woods tend to be vast. It is best to have a good idea of where the mushrooms like to grow before you start looking for them. Plus, mushroom hunting is so much more fun when you actually find mushrooms! Here are a few tips on what to look for in the woods to know if morels are hiding out close by.
Morel Mushrooms Grow Near Dead Elm Trees
As you enter the woods, look for dead trees. Elm trees are best, but morel mushrooms can grow around any dead tree. The dead tree should be one that has died within the last year or so. Indications that the tree is dead include bark that is coming off of the sides of the tree and there is no new growth at the top of the tree. Some of these trees may have recently fallen on their sides. The tree should not be totally rotten or obviously dead for several years. Morels also grow along the roots of the dead trees. So, be sure to follow the roots of the dead tree as you look for them.
May Apple Plants and Leaves Usually Surround Morel Mushrooms
A really good indication that you are in morel mushroom territory is the growth of may apple plants. These plants accumulate in bunches usually around the same dead trees that morels like to grow under. If you notice may apple plants, you are getting close to morels!
Morel Mushrooms Have a Distinct Aroma
As you walk through the woods and begin to find morel mushrooms, be sure to notice the aroma. You can most easily smell the aroma when you are crouching on your knees in an area where mushrooms are growing. Get familiar with the scent by smelling your freshly picked mushrooms. Your nose can guide you in your hunt!
Morel Mushrooms Grow Best in Moist Ground
The ground you are walking on should feel spongy beneath your feet. Fresh rain within the past day or two really helps morel mushrooms to "pop." Moist ground is usually somewhat muddy, but not overly muddy. Leaves and other ground cover keep the ground moist in the areas where the mushrooms grow.
How to Pick Morel Mushrooms
Morel mushrooms should be picked from the base of the stem at ground level. You can either cut straight across the stem with a small knife or use your fingers to gently snap the mushroom stem. By using either method you will intentionally leave a small base of the mushroom with roots in the ground to secure mushroom growth for another year in that area!
Carry Picked Morel Mushrooms in a Mesh Bag to Allow Spores to Shake onto the Ground as You Walk
How to Carry Your Fresh Morel Mushrooms
All true morel mushroom hunters carry their prized mushrooms in a mesh bag of some type. Not only does this allow other hunters to see your awesome find, it also ensures that as you continue your hunt in the woods that mushroom spores that fall off of the mushrooms you carry are left in the woods to generate more growth in future years. Once you have tasted a morel mushroom you will understand why this is so important!
When to Find Morel Mushrooms
Morel mushroom season runs from early to mid April through mid June depending on where you live. The earlier your area experiences spring, the earlier morels will pop. The weather should be 60-70 degrees during the day with nights in the mid 40's. Soil temperatures of 50-60 degrees are perfect for morels.
As soon as springtime changes begin, start watching weather temperatures. You will want to go out early to find the first morels which are usually small and gray in color. We call these "little grays." These small gray morels can be the size of your smallest fingernail or up to about 3 inches tall.
Within a week or 10 days of finding little grays, get ready for the "big yellows." Big yellow morels are generally anywhere from 2-3 inches tall up to the size of a soda pop can. These are really great to hunt and eat!
Ready to Hunt Morel Mushrooms?
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What Can You Cook with Morel Mushrooms?
There are many different ways to enjoy morels. Some hunters like to gather them early in the morning and add them to scrambled eggs for breakfast. Others enjoy them with a light dusting of flour and salt and fried in oil. Some use them in mushroom soups. And still others like them grilled or just lightly sauteed. The possibilities are endless!
How to Dress for Morel Mushroom Hunting
You will be hunting for morel mushrooms in the woods. So, it is best to be prepared for that environment. You will want to wear a long sleeved shirt, long pants and crew or knee high socks. Covering your arms and legs will prevent you from getting scratched by leaves, twigs and thorns as well as protect you from ticks, other insects and poison ivy and the like. A cap or hat is also a good idea to protect yourself from ticks.
Tuck your long sleeved shirt into your pants to prevent ticks from getting on your skin from underneath your shirt. Keep your long sleeves down to your wrists. Don't fold or push them up to your elbows. Tuck your pants into your socks to protect your ankles and legs from ticks on the ground.
As far as your shoes go, you definitely don't want to wear your best boots or tennis shoes for your hunt. If the climate is right for morel mushrooms, the ground will be moist and probably somewhat muddy. You will walk over streams and creeks. (I have walked out of my shoe on a muddy bank!) If you have an old pair of tennis shoes or boots use those for your hunting. Whatever you wear on your feet be sure it is comfortable. You will be walking for at least a couple of hours. The more mushrooms you find, the longer you will want to keep hunting!
Preventing Poison Ivy While Hunting Morel Mushrooms
The first great step to preventing a rash caused by poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac is to be able to know how to spot them. Look for vines that wind up around the barks of trees or grow in long sprawling vines through the grass. If you spot it, do not touch it!
- Poison ivy usually grows with a pattern of 3 large wide round leaves but can have more. It grows up around the barks of trees or may be found growing through the grass along the ground.
- Poison oak grows in clusters of 3 spear pointed leaves that look like the leaves of oak trees. It can have up to 7 leaves per cluster. It grows as a vine around trees or in the shape of a small shrub.
- Poison sumac has 7 -13 leaves per cluster and grows as a small shrub or tree.
Prevent contact with poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac by dressing appropriately when you hunt morel mushrooms. Be sure your clothing covers your arms and legs to prevent accidental contact.
Contact with poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac can result in a painful skin rash. The rash usually develops within 8-48 hours after contact with the bush or vine. The skin of the affected area turns bright red and develops many small fluid filled blisters that may ooze. The rash subsides within 10 days - 3 weeks.
Treatment of rash caused by any of these three plants is relatively simple. It is important to wash the area completely with soap and water after contact to remove as much of the plant oil that causes the rash. Then, use cool baths, wet compresses and calamine lotion for comfort. If the rash develops many blisters that are oozing, see a doctor. You may need a medication for the rash.
Learn More About Morel Mushrooms
- The Great Morel Home Page
The Great Morel - the delightful delicious tasting mushroom and a joy to find. Resources on morel mushrooms, links, recipes and some humor!