In Season: Morel Mushrooms

by in In Season, April 20, 2010

mushrooms

I like heading to my parents’ house in Ohio during the spring for many reasons — spring hikes, daffodils and fresh rhubarb — but the thing I love most (besides my parents…hi Mom and Dad!) is the annual hunt for morel mushrooms. As a kid, I spent morel-spotting time balancing on logs, but once I but once I learned to love the rich, meaty flavor of these elusive wild mushrooms, I was hooked on the hunt. Never tasted morels? Learn where to find them, plus get tasty recipes and cooking tips.

When (and Where) To Find Morels
The low-calorie, vitamin-rich mushrooms grow across the Midwest, Southeast and in some parts of the Pacific Northwest. Morel season can start as soon as early April, and runs till mid-May in some locales. Giveaways that the time is right: the mushrooms typically crop up when nights are warm and the ground is wet. Exact mushroom-hunting spots are often well-guarded secrets, but the fungi often grow near streams, fallen trees and in forest fire-scorched areas. They also grow in patches, so once you find one, scour the area for more.

Some morels are small and grayish-brown like the one pictured above, while later varieties are larger and light yellow. The smaller, darker morels typically have more flavor. If you’re a mushroom-hunting newbie, always head out with an expert. False morels, which can be toxic, have a long stem attached near the top of the mushroom, while the stem of edible morels is attached near the bottom. Never eat a mushroom unless you’re sure it’s edible.

Foraging Alternatives
Not ready to hunt for your own? Morels are sometimes available at farmers’ markets in early spring, but get ready for sticker shock — they typically sell for around $50.00 a pound. Dried morels are more affordable, and are available year-round in the produce section of many supermarkets.

What to Do With Morels
Like most types of mushrooms, morels add a meaty flavor (also known as umami) to soups, sauces and spreads. Some people like to fry them, but I prefer the mushrooms sautéed with a little butter or olive oil and garlic and served with rice or bread (something to sop up the delicious cooking liquid.) Whatever you choose to do, soak fresh morels in lightly-salted water for about an hour to kill bug “passengers” and to rinse off debris.

TELL US: Have you tried fresh morels?

Liz Gray is the Healthy Eats site manager and an editor for FoodNetwork.com. When not foraging for mushrooms, she’s a part-time culinary student who loves to try new recipes and use her boyfriend, Josh, and hybrid Corgi-bulldog puppy, Miles, as expert taste-testers. Learn more about all our contributors »

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Comments (7)

  1. Jody Gray says:

    Hi Liz – Just wanted to clarify that a True Morel( Morchella angusticeps or morchells esculenta) can be distinguished by the fact that the stem goes all the way into the cap, with no attachment or ridge at the cap edge. This phenomenon is best observed when slicing the mushrooms lengthwise, prior to soaking in the mild salt water , as you mentioned. This is a good way to discern a true morel from a "false" one. There are a few other varieties that may mimic a true morel to the untrained observer, but I believe the True Morel is the only one that has this stem feature. I have eaten some false ones, back when I was a "newbi" . They don't taste particularly good, but they are not highly toxic. The result was stomach upset and gastric distress:-( Best to stay away. We made Morel Mushroom Soup last night, using a basic scratch recipe employing butter (or margarine}, flour, chicken or vegetable stock, salt ,pepper and nutmeg to make a slightly thickened light soup base. Mushrooms, onions and garlic were sauteed, then added to the soup to cook a bit further and disburse flavor (about 5 minutes) . We let the soup cool slightly, then added milk and parsley to make it creamy and colorful. YUM! A good way to enjoy the flavor of morels! If I have a number of them , i like to sautee them in garlic butter , then add to a rice and pea pilaf. Think it's about time to get out in those woods now….. Love, Your Mom

  2. Lashay Trish says:

    There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also.Keep working ,great job!

  3. Wow, thanks a bunch m8

  4. thomasbulger says:

    hubbard lake mi. went shrooming today , picked 70 shrooms great day

  5. I needed to put you this little bit of remark to finally thank you very much yet again for your superb

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