Outdoor Living

The hunt for the elusive morel

Many oldtimers have a secret spot they check each spring as the ground warms up to search for delectable morel mushrooms.

When hunting morels, use proper footwear, wear long pants, and carry a collecting bag and walking stick. The walking stick is handy for moving things around on the ground without bending over and to help walking up and down ravines. Mosquito and tick repellant are smart additions.  Get permission from landowners or check regulations of local parks.

As you start hunting in your area, be sure to scan the area for morels. The morels blend easily into the forest floor. “Imprinting” morels in our mind can be helpful as our minds get used to finding them while we are out in the wild. Tape a picture on the fridge, mirror, or near the computer so you’ll be prepared to find them in the woods.

A seasoned morel hunter showed me the ropes. Hunt for morels when there is a good warmup after a rain.  Morels can often be found near the base of ash, elm, sycamore, apple, and tulip poplar trees, although they can also be found out in the open as well. While mature woods are great places to hunt morels, I also hear reports behind gas stations and in the city, so be on the lookout wherever you might be.  Check south facing slopes.

Once a morel is found, be sure to search the nearby area for other morels, as they will often grow in groups. You can cut the morel off with a knife or just pinch it with your fingers. A true morel will be hollow inside. Depending on the day, you might have a great walk in the woods with few morels or you might find a jackpot and have a great dinner that night.

Cleaning morels note the hollow inside.jpg
Cleaning morels — Soak halved morels in water to remove dirt or critters that may hide in the creases. Allow to dry on a towel. Note the hollow inside which is indicative of a true morel.

To prepare morels, many prefer to cut the mushroom lengthwise, soak them in water to remove any dirt or critters that might hide in the creases, and then dry off gently with a paper towel. Some sauté morels after dipping in flour with salt and pepper. Others dip in egg first and then a seasoned flour before frying in olive oil and butter.  Tasty!

Morels sauteed in butter and olive oil
Delicious — Morels sauteed in butter and olive oil are a tasty springtime side dish.

If you can’t find morels out on your walks, you might enjoy finding them at area farmers markets, roadside stands, and select restaurants. What is your favorite way to eat morels?  Do you have a secret spot to share?

           Dr. Carla Gull blogs at www.insideoutsidemichiana.com. She is often seen with her four tag-along explorers in the greater Michiana area.