Morel mushrooms are prized worldwide for their rich flavor, but since they're very difficult to grow, the only way to obtain them is to find them in the wild. Hand-picked from forests, a pound of these precious fungi can cost up to $159. But if you want the mushrooms without the cost, keep these tips in mind and with a little persistence you're sure to get your hands on some fresh, wild morels.
Focus your hunt at the base of dead and dying trees, elm trees in particular are great hosts of morel mushrooms. Morels, having evolved relatively recently, are notably different from most other mushrooms, and people don’t know much about their lifecycle. You can find them around trees, particularly those that are at the end of their lives. When walking in the forest, try to spot trees that are losing their bark or just starting to fall apart, and look carefully up to a few feet away from the base.
Look in damp, shady places, especially after rain. Mushrooms like moisture, so you're less likely to find morels on the sunny side of a hill or in an open meadow than in a shady grove. Keep your eyes on the damp forest soil, and consider heading out soon after a spring shower to see if the fresh water brought any new morels out of the ground.
When you find one, pinch it right through the stem. The mushrooms you eat are only the fruiting bodies of a much larger organism that grows underground. To avoid hurting that larger organism while still getting the most out of your morel, make sure to sever the mushroom through the light-colored stem. The dark, wrinkly cap is the tender, flavorful part anyway, so it's good to keep the stump stay in the ground and let the mushrooms keep coming.
Consider leaving one or two in each patch to help more grow. If you want to take more drastic measures to help morels thrive in your area, you might want to leave a mushroom or two in any patch that you find. After all, the fruiting bodies are there so the mushrooms can reproduce, so if you let a few age naturally, you'll be helping make more morels in future years.
Carry your loot in a mesh bag to let them release spores. If you'd prefer to harvest all the mushrooms you find, it's still a good idea to finish your hike carrying them in a mesh bag so that any spores they release can find their way back into the ground. That has the added benefit of letting the mushrooms air out as you walk. It's even an opportunity for grit or insects that might be hiding in your morels to fall out before you get them home.
Once your hunting expedition is over, leave the morels in a bowl of water for a few hours or an entire night. A little soak will clean them out without hurting the delicate structure of the mushrooms, removing any insects that might have stowed away from the woods. Once they're clean, use them in your cooking or simply fry them up in a little butter.
A delicacy under any conditions, morels will taste best when they're fresh from the forest. By learning to find your own, you can get this treat to your table without paying the cost. And, by harvesting carefully, you can guarantee more morels to enjoy in future years!
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Simple Fried Morel Mushrooms
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: This post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Advanced MycoTech assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.
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