Foraging for morels is one of our family’s favorite springtime activities. We go out often when they’re popping up and forage in our secret little honey hole.
Morel mushrooms are one of our absolute favorite wild edible to forage for. We go out with our kids every single spring and look for these seemingly elusive culinary marvels.
We tend to keep them all to ourselves to eat and enjoy, but hunting morels to sell can be a pretty lucrative business if you can find them. They go for well over $20 a pound in our area and the price often exceeds $30 a pound depending on the season.
And why wouldn’t they? They’re absolutely delicious and a fun break from cabin fever after being stuck inside most of the winter from doing any hunting or foraging.
Foraging is a newer skill set for us. As we plan move back to Montana and find our own homesteading land, we have been trying to build up skills that we can utilize more readily there.
So learning what we can utilizing books like this one to help us ease into this new skillset has been fun. We’ve enjoyed foraging for simple things like sheep sorrel and pulling dandelions out of the yard to make dandelion jelly and easily transition ourselves into hunting for wild edibles in addition to looking for morels, which we’ve done for much longer.
Identifying morel mushrooms
Morel mushrooms are one of the easiest edible mushrooms to identify. There are several species of morel, but the most often found are the black morel and the yellow morel.
Their colors can vary but are usually black, grey, yellow or tan. They are typically taller than they are wide and have a honeycomb appearance on the exterior.
Once cut open, you can see that a morel is completely hollow from cap to stem and seamlessly attaches directly to the stem all the way across.
Where to find morel mushrooms
I’ve often heard people say that morels don’t grow where they live. But, believe it or not, they have been found in all 50 states. While they are more prevalent in the midwest region than in other areas, they do grow in limited quantities just about everywhere.
Morel mushrooms can be rather difficult to find because they’re so good at blending in with the surrounding environment. I’ve found myself walking over them more often than I’d like to admit. But, our middle daughter is somewhat of a morel whisperer. While we walk right on past, they seem to pop right out to here. “Uh, isn’t this what we’re looking for, guys?”
Once you find one, though, it seems like they tend to start popping out in the same area all at once. Once you find one, look around the area carefully and you’re likely to find more. And as you continue the hunt, look in similar areas as you’re likely to find them.
Morels typically live at the edge of and within forested areas and love dead trees. Old apple orchards are a fantastic place to look for morels along with at the base of elm trees, oak trees, aspen trees, poplar, and ash trees (dead or alive).
In the earlier part of the season just as the weather is beginning to turn, you’ll want to look on south-facing slopes, even in open areas. The sun will the soil up more quickly in these areas making the temperature just right to start sprouting the spores.
As the season moves on and begins to warm, you’ll want to turn your sights to north-facing slopes where the shade and lack of sun will keep the soil temperatures desirable for spore growth.
Alongside creeks and low lying, swampy areas are another great place to find mushrooms. We often find them near a low-lying swampy area that is like that much of the year. The mushrooms themselves won’t be found within these swampy, wet areas, but at the edges of them where the soil is draining well.
If you live in an area where wildfires and/or logging are prevalent, allow the area to sprout some regrowth for a year or so and look. Professional morel hunters prize these spots as some of the best hunting. If the area hasn’t been hunted already, you’re likely to find a lot.
The best time to hunt for morels
Morel season varies from place to place and year to year. It can go anywhere from mid-March to late June depending on location and even the weather that particular year.
So, since it varies so widely and can vary a lot from year to year, it’s best to judge when to hunt by the temperature.
Morels grow best when the soil is moist from rain and 50 degrees. Usually if you have a string of nights in the upper 40s and days around 60 degrees with some rain, the morels will start popping up.
While a lot of people say that you need the dry, sunny days that come after a spring rain to find morels, you actually don’t. Some of the best, and most fun, mushroom hunting is done on cloudy, rainy days and experiencing it can be a lot of fun (especially with kids).
A wet spring usually produces a very good morel season, but it just depends on the year when that season starts. The southern half of the US will oftentimes find them earlier in the year and the northern half the season will begin a little later the further north you go.
The season, however, does not last long and it can be easy to miss. If you don’t want to miss it you can visit this page to see if there have been sightings in your area and check it regularly so you don’t miss it.
Avoiding early morels & other look a likes
Morel mushrooms do have a few look a likes, but really, when looking, they don’t look much like morels at all. Of course, if you ever have any doubt about any mushroom or other wild edible, don’t eat it.
Finding look a likes and avoiding them is also fairly easy if you cut them in half. All morel look a likes are filled with either a cotton looking material or a fibrous type of tissue. Morels, as I mentioned, are always hollow inside from cap to stem.
Early morels (Verpa bohemica) are the most common mushroom mistaken for a morel. However, they don’t really have that honeycomb appearance and more closely resemble brains in my opinion. Once opened you can see their cap does not attach all the way across, but rather hangs from the stem like a lampshade and it is filled with a cotton type of material.
Other common false morels are of the genus gyromitra, but their differences are quite obvious, even from the outside. They are usually red and have a folded appearance instead of the tell-tale honeycomb of a true morel. They are also filled with fibrous tissue throughout the inside.
Be a good mushroom citizen
When you’re out hunting for mushrooms, be sure to use a mesh bag! The mesh material will allow you to spread the spores as you carry your finds through the woods hunting for more.
We always take a few mush bags with us to make sure that we can spread those spores around so we, or others, can find more of these delicious edibles later.
Morel mushrooms are easy to find, widely available and a delight to eat. We really enjoy foraging for them with our children and I’m sure you will, too.
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