Morel Mushroom SeasonApr 29, 2014 02:21PM ● By Brooke McGee
The hunt for morels is for many, the thrill of the hunt as well as the taste of the spoils. With morels selling as high as around $40 per fresh pound in areas, and $150 or more dried, you can see why the lure is there. Add to that the distinguished taste, the scarcity and the outdoor experience that comes along with it and you have yourself a family tradition in the making.
In Wisconsin, Mother’s Day is the holiday I pair with morels. Give or take a few weeks based on weather, it’s a good base point for memory. A good rule of thumb is to start seeking when daytime temperatures reach around 60 and nightime temperatures don’t dip below the 40s.
Wooded areas with sandy soils are a great habitat for morels. Found in and around the edge of woods, certain types of trees are associated with them. Dead elm trees especially harbor the right conditions for morels, so if you see one, look around the area for the mushrooms. Dead apple trees or orchards also harbor the right conditions. If bark is falling off the trees, take the time to look around. Aspen, ash and oak also encourage their growth. Information from the WI DNR on how to identify trees can be found here.
You need to look carefully for morels as they blend in with the fallen leaves from the year prior. According to Field and Stream magazine, in the early season, you will find them on the warmer, south-facing slopes or edges. As the morel season progresses, they will emerge further back into the woods and then onto the north side of the forest or slopes.
The earlier you go morel hunting, the smaller the mushroom, so timing is very important. If you are a real enthusiast, you may wish to leave a patch (as long as you know it will be safe!) and come back in two days. The method used to pick morels involves “pinching” at the base of the stem. Collection is usually encouraged in bag made of mesh (think the type of bags oranges are sold in) so the spores can fall out and continue the future growth.
Because morels did indeed grow in the great outdoors, it is important to soak them in salt water for a few hours prior to cooking and eating them. Small bugs are prone to live in the deep pits and hollow inside, making it necessary to thoroughly wash and rinse the entire mushroom. Recipes featuring the morel mushroom can be easily looked up online, though a little butter and salt in a sauté pan is a common favorite. Enjoy!
*Although morels are pretty easy to identify, it is EXTREMELY important that you teach your children (and yourself) NEVER to eat a mushroom unless you are absolutely confident what it is. When in doubt- do without.
*Photos by Brandon Spearman.