Posted by Cathy Scott on March 23, 2016
Here in Tennessee, morels will make their appearance the last few weeks in March or the first few weeks in April. Morel hunting is the perfect activity for enjoying the outdoors this beautiful time of year. Not only will the fresh air and activity invigorate you, but you will feel like a kid on a treasure hunt!
Prepare for the hunt! Stare at pictures of morels in their natural setting, or even better print a few out and hang them in low areas around the house. It might sound crazy, but sometimes the trick to seeing things in nature is to not look for them. This can be especially true of morels. You want your unconscious mind to perceive the morels rather than intently searching the ground every moment you are in the woods. You can do this in part by training your eyes to take in all of the surroundings while latching onto the subtle shapes, textures and colors that are morels.
Include the kids! Children have an eye for finding mushrooms. It may surprise you how quickly kids will find morels while going on an afternoon hike. After you find your first morel, it isn't unusual to look around the immediate area and find more - sometimes dozens more! Now that you are mentally prepared get physically prepared. You can sometimes find morels conveniently located along the trail but more often you will need to be a trail blazer on steep slopes. Dress accordingly. It is a good idea to bring a basket, mesh bag, or anything breathable. In a plastic bag the morels will quickly become soft and slimy. Store your morel harvest in the fridge in a paper bag or wrapped gently in wax paper to keep them from drying out.
Crab stuffed morels
I think of morels as a gateway mushroom to becoming a fungal forager, because they are so delicious and easy to identify. Nothing inedible looks quite like them. While morels have a honeycomb appearance false morels look more brain-like. To be absolutely sure you found a real morel, cut one in half. Morels have a completely hollow open inner chamber, perfect for stuffing with crab dip or other yummy goodness! After your dissection, look closely and you will notice that there are no gills like the grocery store mushrooms. No gills, honeycomb, hollow inner chamber, cap is attached to the stem, growing out of the ground and fruiting in the Spring are some of the rules to identify a morel. If you find what looks like a morel and it isn't early to mid-spring, it isn't a morel.
If you can't find any on your own. Keep an eye on our website for when we have fresh morels in the store. You can also try growing them in your yard using our new morel kits! Local pickers, like our friend Whitey, offer guided mushroom forays http://www.thefungiforager.com/
Please don't try to identify foraged wild mushrooms just based on this newsletter!
Consult a more comprehensive source like these:
Arora, D. (1986). Mushrooms Demystified. Berkeley, California, Ten Speed Press.
Kuo, M. "The Mushroom Expert." 2013, from http://www.mushroomexpert.com/boletus.html
Kuo, M. (2005). Morels. Ann Arbor, Michigan, The University of Michigan Press.
Lincoff, G. and T. Laessoe (2002). Smithsonian Handbooks Mushrooms. New York, New York, A Dorling Kindersley Book.
Lincoff, G. and C. Nehring (1981). National Audubon Society, Field Guide to Mushrooms: North America. New York, Alfred A. Knopf.
Lockwood, T. (2009). The Good, the Bad and the Deadly, DVD.
Lockwood, T. (2009). The Mushroom Identification Trilogy, DVD.
Lonik, L. (2012). The Curious Morel. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, Stackpole Books.
Schwab, A. (2006). Mushrooming without fear: The beginner's guide to collecting safe and delicious mushrooms. New York, New York, Skyhorse Publishing.