According to Field & Stream, you can find morel mushrooms growing in the same location for many seasons. But conditions can change over time, making your go-to spot unreliable. It may be time to expand your morel hunting territory.
Fungiphiles know the thrill of discovering too many morels to carry. In this article, you will find information about your favorite – and elusive – “spongy fungi” and how to best grab these nutty morsels during prime time.
Why Don’t Morels Always Grow Back in the Same Place?
If your favorite spot has gone bare, there has been a biological or ecological change. The system of threads from which mushrooms grow called “hyphae” may not be supported enough to produce. Morels are like the “Goldilocks” of fungi. They need the conditions to be just right – like temperature, decomposing wood, soil moisture level, humidity, and shade. The good news is, they don’t travel far.
How Do I Find Morels?
There are things to keep in mind to become a morel hunting aficionado – such as time of year, temperatures, soil, trees, water, and how to spot and pick them.
During What Season Do I Look For Morels?
Morchella Esculentas, the fancy name for the popular yellow morels, are most common in the spring. But some springs are better than others.
If you have gone through a snowy winter followed by an abundant rainy season, you’re in luck. Snow moistens the soil and keeps it cooler, a welcoming underground environment for fickle morels. Here’s a general guideline for morel seasons around the country:
- In the Deep South, morel season starts in March but will end sooner.
- In the Mid-South or Midwest, April through May is time to hunt.
- For the Upper Midwest and Northeast, May through June is ideal.
Morel season lasts about three weeks.
What Time of Day is Best to Find Morels?
Although you can discover them all day, the best time is 10 am-2 pm. It’s difficult to find them, even with a trained eye. During those hours you will have fewer shadows, and they will be more visible.
What Should the Temperature Be to Find Morels?
When your local temperature is at or above 50 degrees for one week, combined with recent rain, it’s time to round up your morel bags. When oak leaves are just starting to bud, there’s your sign to get out there. And if you’ve just had a morning rain, go!
What Kind of Soil Do I Look For to Find Morels?
Find a balance between moist soil, but not soaked, and not holding water. Fussy morels will not grow if the soil is too warm or too cold. Keep this in mind as you move up and down in elevation while scouting. Disturbed ground such as tire tracks or clear-cutting can also be a morel mine.
What Trees Are Morels By?
Locate wooded areas of Elm, Ash, Oak, Poplar, Hickory, White Pine, or Black Locust trees in filtered light. Look for dead or dying trees with a little surviving or new foliage.
Fruit trees are also a desirable choice – an old, unkempt apple orchard can be an ideal place to search.
Can I Find Morels After Forest Fires?
Avid hunters swear by it. Within the year after a forest fire in the Western U.S., there are bumper crops in the ashes. Commercial suppliers of morels sold in the region rely on this phenomenon. They refer to them as “burn morels.”
Can Morels be Found by Creeks and Streams?
Soil found along running water usually has a good moisture balance for morels. Take a walk along the banks and see what you find.
Although not as common, swamps are also good spots to explore. They have low areas that are moist even in dry weather conditions. Check out the slightly higher ground nearby. Swamps can be wonderful shroom producers during a normal season.
How Do I Spot Morels? They’re Almost Invisible!
Remember – where you find a morel – you find more morels. Recognizing them in their camouflage is half the battle.
Train your eyes to see these hidden charms. Rather than looking straight down at the ground, look about ten feet in front of you for that familiar wrinkly pinecone shape as you walk through the woods. Use a walking stick to push undergrowth aside, giving you a clearer look as you scour the area.
Are Morels Bunched Together, or Spread Out?
If you come across a morel, stop in your tracks and put on your morel spectacles! Usually, you’ll find more morels nearby, within about 20 feet of the one you found. After you’ve searched that area, move on to other fertile grounds.
How Do I Know It’s Not a Poisonous Mushroom?
Not to put a damper on this mushroom fun, but we need to talk about poisonous morel lookalikes. These imposters contain a toxin called Gyromitrin, which according to the National Institutes of Health, can cause serious health problems, even death. Fortunately, their physical differences are quite recognizable from morels. You can easily research online to find out what those differences are.
What’s the Best Way to Pick Morels?
When you’re a morel hunting enthusiast, there’s an unspoken rule to follow. Do not pull the shroom out by the roots; cut or tear it off at the stem. That way, more will continue to grow year after year. Keep them in a mesh bag to oxygenate, take them home, and enjoy!
Can’t I Just Buy Them?
If all else fails, you can. Online, in dried form, is the easiest way. But they are expensive! A half-pound can cost more than $100. That wouldn’t last long!
Keep in mind, morels are a rare delicacy coveted by chefs around the world. There are many online sites to purchase from, with varying prices, qualities, and quantities. It can be confusing.
And not nearly as much fun as finding them yourself – with these tips though you’ll be able to find your own.