A Guide to Hunting for Morel Mushrooms

A guide to hunting for Morels. Mushroom hunting can be a wonderful, healthy outdoor experience to share with family and friends. But the thrill of the hunt is only half the enjoyment.

| April/May 2002

  • Fun to find and a treat to eat, it's hard to beat morel mushrooms.
    Fun to find and a treat to eat, it's hard to beat morel mushrooms.
    PHOTO: DAVID CAVAGNARO
  • On a good day you, too might harvest a bumper crop of morel mushrooms like this one.
    On a good day you, too might harvest a bumper crop of morel mushrooms like this one.
    DAVID CAVAGNARO
  • Morel harvest coincides happily with other harbinger of spring: fresh asparagus.
    Morel harvest coincides happily with other harbinger of spring: fresh asparagus.
    DAVID CAVAGNARO
  • Author Larry Lonik demonstrates the mesh bags that allow morel spores to escape and spread as the harvester walks, ensuring future harvests.
    Author Larry Lonik demonstrates the mesh bags that allow morel spores to escape and spread as the harvester walks, ensuring future harvests.
    BOB TREEMORE

  • Fun to find and a treat to eat, it's hard to beat morel mushrooms.
  • On a good day you, too might harvest a bumper crop of morel mushrooms like this one.
  • Morel harvest coincides happily with other harbinger of spring: fresh asparagus.
  • Author Larry Lonik demonstrates the mesh bags that allow morel spores to escape and spread as the harvester walks, ensuring future harvests.

This guide to hunting for morel mushrooms will help you find these delicious gourmet treats.

Mushroom hunting can be a wonderful, healthy outdoor experience to share with family and friends. But the thrill of the hunt is only half the enjoyment. Its deliciously earthy, nutty, steak-like flavor makes the morel mushroom the No. 1 target of wild mushroom hunters across North America.

The two dozen choicest wild mushrooms on this continent have a range of flavors — light, sweet apricot (chanterelle), eggplant (puffball), meat like (several) — but the morel is king. Thousands of people scour fields and forests annually in North America in search of morels.

Not only is it the best-tasting, the morel is also the easiest to identify and safest to eat of all wild mushrooms. Generally, if you find a sponge-like protuberance, 1 to 6 inches tall pushing skyward among fallen forest leaves and grasses on spring days between 60 and 80 degrees, you're in luck. The stems and caps of morels are hollow, and the stem is attached at the base of the cap. It makes a great first mushroom to learn because its spongy shape is so distinctive and easy to identify. This guide to hunting for morel mushrooms will help you secure a bountiful bushel of morels.



When and Where to Hunt Morel Mushrooms

Morels appear throughout the continent in spring. Trees are just beginning to bud, so relatively unfiltered sunlight warms the earth directly. This triggers the appearance of a number of wildflowers: trillium, phlox, trout lily, Dutchman's breeches, violets, wild strawberries and many more. These flowers, along with temperature, are indicators of when to look for morels.

The "where" isn't quite as simple. Where the spores fall, cross pollinate and germinate is basically where morels will grow — after a five-year cycle of nutrient-gathering and storage. Black morels (which appear first) tend to be more exclusively in hardwood forests, but not around any particular type of tree. Finding them is often like a connect-the-dots game. When you find one, be still and look nearby. When the spores that created the morel you just picked were jettisoned years ago, there likely was a wind pattern that blew the spores in a particular path. There may have been a nutrient source or environment (soil type, moisture, pH, etc.) that was conducive for growth. Look for the patterns.

Kelly
5/2/2016 7:36:45 PM

Hello, Im a semi newbie, but as I love trapsin the woods with my faithful schnauzer have started musroom hunting a few years back. Missouri was a much easier state to find them and heres why. Since April 1st the weather started warming up, my excitement rose only to then get hit with 7 inches of snow and cold crappy weather for the following week.We have not had 2 even semi sunny days in a row then. We had one day last week and its been overcast and rainy ever sense. Its supposed to be sunny tomorrow nut not the next. Am I correct in thinking if we get 2 or 3 days of nice sun he mushrooms will start popping? A few small ones have been found at a hotspot but that's it.Any opinions? Thank you


LearningAlotThanks
3/28/2016 6:17:34 PM

Thanks very informative have learned a lot from your page hope to read more soon


Kruze
3/17/2016 5:49:31 PM

Larry, Morel mushrooms are a fungi and more specific an Ectomycorrhizea, therefore to say that the spores are being blown about by the wind with pollen is completely incorrect. The fact that you actually put that in this article tells people that its more possible that you have no idea what it is that you are talking about.






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