Morel Mushroom Hunting

Morel Mushrooms

This past week found me suddenly traveling across the country to visit my childhood home in Michigan in order to care for my mother. On my first morning there, the air was warm and the sun shone brightly. Something about it just felt like spring mushroom hunting weather. I knew we had a few hours before hospital visiting hours so I convinced my brother and father to go morel mushroom hunting.

Fortunately, we found a bountiful supply of mushrooms on our first hunt – a good 30 or so. When we eventually made it to the hospital, my mother even more determined to come home quickly. Morels are a delicacy and highly valued in my family. You don’t pass up the chance for a steak dinner with morels, even if that means tracking down doctors to get your release papers signed.

Morels are such an amazing fungi. They are difficult to cultivate which is why you rarely find them on store shelves. Around Mother’s Day, morels begin to appear in Michigan. The mushrooms are typically found in moist, shaded environments often around dead elm trees, maple trees or apple trees. I haven’t studied them to understand why this is (and every mushroom hunter has their own philosophy on where to find them) but we’ve found this guidance to be true.

The mushrooms are a single piece, with a stem rising up to form the honeycomb patterned cap. When looking from the bottom of the stem, you will see they are hollow on the inside. You’ll usually find that bugs love all the nooks and crannies inside morels, so a thorough washing is a must.

Unlike store-bought mushrooms, morels should not be eaten raw (due to toxin content which is reduced during cooking). My mother slices them in half then soaks in a bowl of cold water. Dirt and debris will fall to the bottom of the bowl. You may need to drain and repeat. They will keep in the refrigerator for a few days but are best eaten soon after picking. We typically toss them lightly in flour, then fry in butter. The edges become crisp and the inside a tender, almost creamy, consistency with a light earthy flavor.

Since there are sometimes ‘fake morels’ and other varieties of inedible mushrooms, you should never ever eat any mushrooms without first consulting with a local mushroom expert. I cannot stress this enough.

Morel Mushrooms

Morel Mushroom

Morel Mushroom Hollow

Sliced Morel Mushrooms

In the following photo, you’ll see these two mushrooms stand out easily against the green grass. In most cases, they hide amongst brown leaves and bits of tree bark, making it much more difficult to find. If the ground is covered in a thick layer of leaves, you may need to brush them aside to find morels laying on their sides underneath.

Morel Mushrooms in the Wild

My brother admitted that he had never found a morel mushroom before, which I found odd given how many he’s likely eaten. In retrospect, I was the one called ‘nature boy’ while growing up and was always out wandering the farm in search of interesting specimens. I guess he never participated in the mushroom hunting back then, but he certainly enjoyed it this time.

My brother is competitive and after finding the first few, he became much more intrigued by the hunt. Here he is walking home with his bag of mushrooms:

morels_brother

My father also enjoyed the hunt and told stories of morel mushrooms past. His favorite story involves finding mushrooms nearly 8 inches in height. It reminded me of fishermen with tall tales of the fish which got away. However, I can vouch for him this time. I do remember finding very tall morels in the past but it seems to change each year based on weather and other conditions. This year, most of them were four inches in height or smaller.

Unfortunately, our hunt yielded my father only a few mushrooms, like the one he is proudly displaying below:

morels-dad

While many mushroom hunters travel around to find the best mushroom picking spots, we are content to hunt only on our own land. We’ve found several good locations that yield enough mushrooms for ‘ a good mess’, as my mother likes to say.

Over the past week, we’ve found over 70 mushrooms and I think there remains another good week or two in the season. About 3.5 pounds found, in total. One local market was selling morels for $35 per pound but I’ve heard some restaurants will pay up to $50 per pound. For the fun we had and for the joy it brought us all, I’m not sure we would ever sell our mushrooms, no matter the price.

Anyone finding morels where you live?

Morel mushroom resources:
The Great Morel
Morel Mushroom Hunting Club
Northern Country Morels
Morel Tales: The Culture of Mushrooming
The National Morel Mushroom Festival

Morel mushroom recipes from other food blogs:
Sauteed Morel Mushrooms with Fava Beans – Apple Pie, Patis, & Pate
Veal Chops with Morel Mushrooms – Sunday Nite Dinner
Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup – Simply Recipes


Follow-up: Thank you for everyone’s thoughts, prayers and kind words this past week. I truly appreciate each and every one of them. Fortunately, my mother is doing just fine now. I’m positive that the mushrooms helped her to heal :-)

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • kat May 11, 2009, 3:07 pm

    Wow, how awesome that you found all those fresh mushrooms, very jealous! Glad to hear your mother is on the mend.

  • lo May 11, 2009, 3:25 pm

    Ooooh. How I wish I knew of some morel hunting grounds over this way!

    That said — I just spied local morels at our co-op, so somebody knows where the goods are! We’ve splurged on a couple of batches already.

  • Michelle May 11, 2009, 3:31 pm

    WOW…such beauties too. Looks like you had a great time. Hope your Mom is better soon!!

  • Nicole May 11, 2009, 3:48 pm

    Perhaps you should change your twitter name to @natureboy ;-)

    Great post! I’ve never hunted mushrooms before, sounds like a blast!

  • Peter G May 11, 2009, 6:35 pm

    I must admit I have never been mushroom hunting before. What a great bounty you yielded…the thought of frying them simply in butter sounds delicious Allen. Great to hear your mum is doing better.

  • Manggy May 12, 2009, 12:13 am

    Nice to hear from you, Allen– you back in Vancouver? I tried to leave a comment in the previous post but WP was on the fritz at the time. Well, you know my thoughts via e-mail anyway.
    Definitely need to think of slightly healthier ways to cook morels, but I think I’d be hard-pressed to think of a more delicious method of cooking :) Morels are never to be found here, though. I’ll have to keep an eye out for them when I’m back in the US!

  • islandgusto May 12, 2009, 3:19 am

    Allen,

    What a great story, and I love the pics! It reminds me of home in SW Ontario, where my family used to enjoy morels every spring too. I think they grew under the big maple trees in our yard, but not sure because it was my dad who always found them. I live on the east coast now, and there are no morels to be had :( Your story has a great ending, and I am very glad to hear that your mom responded well to the morel therapy.

  • Corrie May 12, 2009, 7:36 am

    I live in Wisconsin…. was out in the yard last week doing some cleaning up in the yard and came across a couple of mushroom looking things. They were hidden underneath some bushes. Plucked them up to get a better look. They looked exactly like the ones in your posting. Didn’t think much about until I came across your site. Didn’t keep them because I assumed they were toxic and (sorry to say) I’m not much of a mushroom eater. Hope your Mom is feeling better!!

  • Fearless Kitchen May 12, 2009, 9:22 am

    I’m so jealous – I would be very hesitant to go mushroom-hunting myself, and around here I wouldn’t trust even the safe mushrooms I found. It’s nice that you were able to go hunting for them, even if the circumstances were less than ideal!

  • Jen May 12, 2009, 9:52 am

    Your photos of these wrinkled treasures are lovely. Thanks for all of your tips as well. Cheers to your mom feeling better!

  • helen May 12, 2009, 10:41 am

    The guy that sells morels on Granville Island picks his from somewhere in the Okanagan (he won’t tell). A few years back, and a year after the great Okanagan forest fires, the morels grew wild. They were enormous in size and relatively affordable.

    I assume you’re back in Vancouver. Welcome home! Hope you had a great visit back home.

  • Culinary Cory May 12, 2009, 5:55 pm

    Growing up in northern Michigan myself, we used to hunt of morels all the time. In fact, a nearby town would have a mushroom festival every year to celebrate the odd shaped fungus. Glad to hear you had good weather on your visit.

  • Josh May 12, 2009, 8:56 pm

    I was always told to use an onion bag to allow the spores to fall out as you wander the woods so there are more morels the next year.

  • Giff May 12, 2009, 10:35 pm

    morels are something I’d love to forage! I admit, though, that the risk of eating an unsafe mushroom (i.e. picking the wrong kind) scares the hell out of me.

  • Hélène May 13, 2009, 5:07 pm

    I was raised on a farm in Quebec and spent more time outside than inside. I always found mushrooms but did not know what kind they were, so we did not eat them. I can assure you now after looking at your beautiful pictures that they were not Morel. I enjoyed reading about this mushroom. I never seen it on Vancouver Island.

    You’ll keep good memories on those hunt with your father and brother. Your father looks so healthy. What a joy to spend time with family.

  • megan May 13, 2009, 5:12 pm

    I know they hunt morels in my neck of the woods but I have no idea where or if I would even have the right mushrooms. I did get some sent to me a few weeks ago and made a asparagus risotto with morels.

  • Allen May 13, 2009, 6:29 pm

    I love hearing about everyone’s experiences with morels. While growing up, I never thought much about them. But now, I’m eager to go hunting … ever since returning from Michigan, it’s all I can think about :-)

    I should note, that in addition to frying them in butter, we also used them in an asparagus and morel omelet for breakfast. Delicious!

  • tigress May 14, 2009, 1:03 pm

    those morels look incredible! i live in the berkshires of MA 1/2 the year and hear that there are morels around in the spring. i’ve looked and looked but unfortunately have never found any. i have only had fresh morels twice (in india of all places) and every year i try my luck again around my house… maybe some year i’ll get lucky!

    thanks for the lovely photos!

  • Helen Yuet Ling Pang May 17, 2009, 9:26 am

    Your dad looks sooo proud of himself! I’m going to go mushroom foraging, but with an expert, in the autumn and hopefully learn more about what I can and can’t eat. It’ll be interesting to see what we find…

  • shayne June 17, 2009, 7:57 pm

    where in Michigan are you from. I grew up in Newaygo county

  • Lydia September 29, 2009, 9:53 am

    I was wondering how you know how to tell the difference in morel mushrooms and in fake mushrooms and then what are the side affects of eating a poisnous mushroom?

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