Most people forage morels from the wild. This means they will have critters inside their gills and munching on them from the inside. These are often some type of bug and it could be a number of insects, none of which are appetizing and will turn your stomach if you’re not expecting them.
What kinds of bugs take up residence in morel mushrooms?
Almost any bug can live inside the cozy, warm and hollow space of a morel. These mushrooms are famous for harboring black beetles, teeny snails with crunchy shells and springtail bugs. Morels will have the larvae of these insects as well.
How can I know that white worms are infesting the morels ahead of time?
In most instances, you won’t know you have white worms in your morels until you bring them home and inspect them. Even store-bought morels can have a white worm infestation.
But, a good indicator to look out for when acquiring morels is the silky threads they deposit into the gaps and spaces of the caps. This bug excretion looks like white, fuzzy, cottony mold, but it’s a sure sign that bugs are present.
Should I avoid buying or picking morel mushrooms with white worms in them?
It’s important to understand that worms are part-and-parcel to mushrooms. They love to eat them just like people do, so they’re going to be in there. Efforts to avoid them during foraging or buying them at the store are futile.
That said, you may want to go for ones that appear to have less of an infestation. Ones that have a heavy presence of white worms may not be worth the effort to get rid of them. So, it’s not that you have to avoid selecting these, but you are going to have to inspect and remove them.
How do you inspect morel mushrooms for white worms?
When foraging or shopping for morels, you should first look at them well to see if you find any worms present. Whether you notice the white silky secretion on the cap or not, it’s a good idea to inspect the mushrooms at home before you plan to eat them.
An Eye for Detail
There is a method for doing this to ensure you know where they all are and what method will be best for removing them. First, take a dry pastry brush, or similar implement, and remove all the dirt and debris from the mushrooms. Take note of the areas where there is the white, fuzzy mold-looking substance in the crevices.
If you want to be extra meticulous, split the morels in half to see if there are any insects residing within the mushrooms. When you notice them, it’s time to remove them.
How do you get rid of white worms that you find in morel mushrooms?
There are several methods many experienced mycologists suggest for removing white worms from morel mushrooms. When you bring them home from the store or the wild, place them in a sealable plastic bag that will be tight and secure.
Suffocate the Worms
Taking care not to mash the mushrooms, remove all the air out of the bag and seal it tight. Ensure no air can escape to guarantee oxygen deprivation. Let this sit for several hours to an entire day. The white worms and larvae will crawl away from the morel because they will eventually seek out air.
Use Cool, Salty Water
Then, take a bowl and make it salty with cool water. Dump the mushrooms into it and swish them around for 10 to 30 seconds. This will loosen any excess dirt and debris, but more importantly the worms. Don’t soak the morels as this will make them mushy and give them an undesirable texture.
Use a slotted spoon and scoop up the mushrooms, discarding the salty cold water that should have worms and larvae sunk to the bottom. You can dump it down the toilet or kitchen sink with an aerator.
Rinse Them Out & Inspect More
Next, rinse the mushrooms with cold running water that has some heavy pressure to it. Scrutinize each piece for other larvae or worms that might be lurking about. You can leave them whole without cutting, but this isn’t advisable if you want to ensure you remove all the worms.
Make sure you look in the honeycomb texture of the cap and its underside. If you’ve opened them up already, look along the inner walls. Gently pull out extra worms with your fingers.
Dry the Mushrooms
Dry the mushrooms off with clean paper towels, followed by a fan dry and then allowing them to air dry completely. Some people will use a food dehydrator, desiccant or the oven (set at the lowest temperature) to help with the drying process.
Freeze the Worms
Another method that’s possible for removing worms is freeze drying the mushrooms. You can put them in an airtight freezer bag and remove all the air out of them before sealing. Not only will this prevent freezer burn, but it will also kill any and all bugs living inside them.
You’ll be able to preserve the morel mushrooms for later use if you don’t want to eat them right away. But, it’s best to consume them within four days of bringing them home to ensure flavor.
Is it safe to eat white worms that end up in morel mushrooms?
It may be that one or two little worms make it through your cleaning process. If you end up consuming it, there’s nothing to worry about. You won’t get sick, have to go to the hospital or any such thing. Your stomach may turn at the prospect of eating a bug, but there’s essentially no harm in it.
While the presence of bugs being in mushrooms doesn’t present a threat to your health, they are unsightly. Little creeping, crawling white slimy looking things neither make good dinner guests nor do they make an appetizing accompaniment.
Hi, I’m John Stephens, chief editor and writer for Totalgardener.com. I’ve been gardening and raising animals for over 15 years starting with a small backyard plot in Northern Virginia where I grew corn, potatoes, squash, and using a high mulch technique called the Ruth Stout Method. I also raised ducks and small mammals for meat and eggs in a movable pen similar to the ones used by Joel Salatin. I later moved to Colorado where I experimented with growing greens using aquaponics inside. I eventually added a microgreens setup and home sprouting operation. I’m excited to share everything I’ve learned plus more from the other local gardening and animal raising experts I know.