You may have heard that morels are a springtime favorite of many mushroom foragers. But why? What is it about these mushrooms that makes them so special? Read on to learn how morels are used, where they are found, why they are so prized, and other morel key facts.
Quick Facts About Morel Mushrooms
|Physical Description||Wrinkly mushrooms found growing individually and in clusters. Caps are deeply pitted and have a distinctive honeycomb appearance. The caps are fully attached to the stems, which are completely hollow inside. Morels come in a variety of colors, including black, gray, yellow, white, and even ruddy. Morels range in size from two inches up to a foot tall.|
|Distribution||Widely distributed throughout North America and Europe, also found in other temperate forested regions of the Northern Hemisphere|
|Habitat||Damp forest and woodland regions, especially near dead and decaying trees such as elm, ash, oak, maple, and sycamore.|
|Flavor||Deep, nutty, earthy, with a meaty texture.|
|Aroma||Faintly fishy or woodsy|
|Look-Alikes||False morels, bell morels, stinkhorns|
|Uses||– Used fresh in cooking as a side dish or addition to recipes.|
– Used dry as a flavoring for soups, stews, and sauces.
– Dry morels and morel extract are sometimes used as a health supplement.
|Health Benefits||– High in antioxidants|
– Good source of vitamin D
– Protects the liver
– Keeps the heart healthy
What Are Morels?
Morels are a highly coveted mushroom with a short growing season. They typically appear for about a month during the spring, and due to their need for highly specific growing conditions, they can be challenging for even the most seasoned mushroom hunters to find.
Morels are easily recognizable by their conical, wrinkly caps and hollow interiors. They come in a variety of colors but all have the same basic appearance.
There are, however, some poisonous morel look-alikes. According to the Natural History Society of Maryland, it’s important to slice open your morels down the middle to look for the distinctive hollowness inside, as true morels are the only ones with fully attached caps and that are completely hollow from tip to base.
Morels have a strongly pleasant taste not unlike other mushrooms; it is often described as earthy or nutty. The meat-like texture of morels is different from most mushrooms and makes them a favorite even among those who don’t normally like mushrooms.
Morels are extremely difficult to cultivate, so they can be rare and expensive to buy. If you’re hoping to enjoy these tasty mushrooms, your best bet is to learn how to forage them yourself.
When Are Morels in Season?
Nearly all morel varieties grow during the spring, typically from March to May depending on the region. One variety, the wood chip morel, sometimes fruits in the fall, but all other varieties make their brief appearance during the spring.
Morels require soil temperatures consistently around 50 degrees with daytime air temperatures between 60 and 70 and overnight lows no lower than 40. They do best in moist conditions and are often spotted after a spring rainfall, but too much rain can prevent or delay their appearance.
Where Can You Find Morels?
Morels are commonly found growing near dead and dying trees in forest and woodland areas. Some of their favorite trees are elm, ash, and oak, and they frequently appear just before these trees begin to leaf out.
Though they tend to grow close to dead or dying trees, their presence is beneficial to the living trees in the region. Morels have a symbiotic relationship with trees, drawing key nutrients the trees put into the soil while supplying other nutrients to the trees in the area.
Morels need loose, damp, loamy soil with a slightly alkaline pH, typically between 7 and 8.5. They grow best in partial shade but may be found growing in sunnier spots early on in the season.
For tips and information on how to find morels, check out the following video:
Morels are a prized find among mushroom hunters (and many wild animals love them too!). Their short growing season and delicious taste and texture make them a favorite spring food even among those who don’t typically care for mushrooms. On our website you can find more information on how to store and clean morels.
Read also about other forest mushrooms – here are our guides about Black Trumpets, Chanterelles, Oysters.