Growing up in the Rocky Mountains, I had never heard of Morels – let alone the excitement they bring to thousands of people every springtime. The treasure hunt of these whimsical fungi is an alluring pass time!
This is our first spring in the Midwest, and to our surprise we have been caught up in the enchantment of foraging the forest in search of these mushrooms!
What Are Morels?
Morels are mushrooms that have a unique look to them. Their tops are cone-shaped with pits and ridges. The cone-shaped tops can be black or yellow in color. Their tops are connected to their stems. They have a whitish-cream colored stem. Inside their stem is completely hallow.
They grow usually between two to four inches, however, they can get quite large. They feel a bit sponge like and their smell is very faint, almost absent.
Now that you know what a true morel looks like, let’s go over the imposters or commonly known as “false morels”. Their caps are floppy looking and instead of pits they are lobes, folds, or wrinkled irregular caps. False morel’s colors range from black, gray, brown red, or white.
Their stems are not hollow. They are not only found in the springtime like true morels, but instead are found year-round.
Generally all false morels are poisonous and not edible. Several types have caused death, so please be aware of what they look like and avoid them. I think that true morels have such a unique look to them that confusing them with the false morels is unlikely. If you’d like to compare true morels to false morels check out this link.
When And How Do You Find Morels?
This is a springtime event! They usually grow after a good rain, near and around trees. Locating them is often easiest in wooded areas. However, something that us Westerners are not as accustomed to in the forest, is the abundance of opportunistic ticks. Man alive, those pesky criters are everywhere! If foraging for this delicacy, be sure to do a tick check when you get home.
When I first learned that morel foraging was a common practice here, I didn’t really think twice about it. Reason being, I don’t like mushrooms. So, no need to rush out to get any right? Well, my husband’s friend gave us a bag one night. He and his daughter had just foraged them. Honestly, I was curious since this was such a ritual every year. He told us to take them home and soak them in salt water for 10 minutes to get the bugs out if there were any and then fry them up. It was late so we put them in a bag in the fridge and made them the next day.
What Is The Best Way To Eat Morels?
Cooked. Raw morels contain a mild toxin that needs to be cooked out. Eating them raw can cause gastric upset such as nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Michigan State University has more details in there article here.
Here is our recipe for preparing morels:
- First, I rinsed them.
- I filled a jar with water and a little salt.
- Then cut each one in half and let them soak for about 20 minutes.
- While they were soaking, I mixed equal parts of flour and cornmeal. I seasoned to taste with salt and pepper.
- I then removed the morels from the salt bath and rinsed them once more.
- In a zip lock bag, I put the flour mixture and morels in. Zipped it up and gave a good shake! This coated every pit and ridge on those little mushrooms tops.
- In a skillet, I covered the bottom with bacon grease and turned the burner to medium heat.
- I browned them on each side then set them in a bowl to cool off.
What Do Morels Taste Like?
Normally I would feel unqualified to answer this. My husband and I both don’t care for mushrooms, but they were cooked and waiting for us to try them. So naturally my husband had to try them first! He took a bite and said they aren’t bad – I could tell he wasn’t lying so I tried one. I really liked it. The flour coating probably covered up the true taste of the mushroom itself, but it wasn’t a strong flavor of mushroom at all. He went to call the kids in and I suggested we just eat them ourselves! But of course, I was kidding and our kids loved them more then us. My oldest son was stuffing his mouth full!
Because they were pretty overpowered by the flour mixture, I would like to try them cooked differently maybe in a soup or with green bean casserole.
Morel Health Benefits
These seasonal little treats are packed full of healthy nutrients. However, remember they need to be cooked. Here is what I dug up:
Morel Mushrooms nutrient content per 100g (about 7-9 morels)
|Vitamin D||10.2 µg|
Apparently, these little guys have been used in traditional medicine for centuries! A scientific article showed that morels have anti-oxidative (prevent cell damage), anti-inflammatory bioactivities, immunostimulatory (increases the immune system’s ablility to fight infection), and anti-tumor properties!¹
This springtime, enjoy hunting this adorable little treasure with friends and family! All while knowing you are nourishing your body!
Let me know in the comments below if you forage for morels!
For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.
- Tietel Z, Masaphy S. True morels (Morchella)-nutritional and phytochemical composition, health benefits and flavor: A review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2018 Jul 24;58(11):1888-1901. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2017.1285269. Epub 2017 Jul 21. PMID: 28350213.