To find Morel mushrooms in the wild you’re going to need to all the tips and tricks of the master mushroom foragers. These are difficult mushrooms to find.
The Perfect Conditions For Finding Morel Mushrooms
key is to have a week or so with daytime temperatures in the 60’s and night time temperatures in the upper 40’s. It’s at this time the ground temperature reaches the low to mid 50’s which is the optimum growing condition for morels. Some rain to moisten the soil is required but it’s a myth is that you need the sun to really “pop” them.
First of all, they grow close together. If you find one, stop moving or you’ll probably stand on another before you see it. Get down low and carefully inspect your surroundings for others.
For the best chance of success, keep an eye on the weather and temperatures:
- A few days slowly warming up to around 60 Fahrenheit of 15 celsius
- The evenings will be around 40 – 50 Fahrenheit or 10 celsius
- The ground temperatures will be in the mid 50’s
- A few dry days followed by rain to soften the ground
Look for an area thats:
- Hillside facing east
- On a transition between pine and hardwoods
- Usually lots of deadfall on ground and lots of moss
In spring the trees will be just beginning to bud and warm sunlight heats the earth. Wildflowers like western white trillium, phlox, trout lily, Dutchman’s breeches, violets, wild strawberries are all Morel indicators.
Where In The World Do You Find Morel Mushrooms In The Wild
You can typically find Morel mushrooms in the damp but well-drained areas near trees. In particular species like ash, elm, hickory or sycamore.
For many foragers the Morel hunting season starts the year before. They’re keeping their eyes on the news and watching the government websites looking for one thing: forest fires.
Morels grow very well in areas that have recently been affected by forest fires and can be found on the outer edges of burned areas.
Wildfire perimeter maps are available on the Forest Service’s InciWeb.
In the Pacific North West a bad year for forest fires can be a good sign for finding morel mushrooms. In the right conditions, post-fire Morels can start fruiting in less than a few weeks and continue to fruit for up to two years before disappearing again.
When scouting burned areas look for trees with slightly green tips near the top of the trees. The ground could be blacked with ash and the soil covered in pine needles.
If you find burnt out areas thick with vegetation, move on. You’re looking for pine needle trees and only a few sprouts of green grass poking through. Bear in mind some forest fires would have burned so hot nothing survived.
And, be patient. It will take time for your eyes to adjust. At first all you’ll see are pine needles, sticks and roots. Get down low and allow your eyes to focus.
Where to Find Morel Mushrooms North America
Where to Find Morels in Canada
Starting in early spring on the west coast, Morels are one of the few species of mushrooms you can start looking out for in April. On the prairies it usually starts in May. When the tree buds start blooming it’s a good indicator that the time is right to start foraging.
In the conifer forests of the mountains the sun, rain, and winds combine to provide flush after flush. On a good year you’ll be able to find Morels into mid even late summer but you might have to travel north or up in elevation to cooler climates. Out on the prairies flushes will be brief and may come only once a season.
Where to Find Morels in The United States
In the United States you can find Morel mushrooms in abundance from mid-March to mid summer. You’ll find them all down the West Coast and from Dallas, Oklahoma City and Wichita out past the Appalachian Mountains.
Can You Find Morel Mushrooms In Europe?
Yes, you can. They’re a A delicacy in French cooking but Morels can be found all over Europe, Germany, Austria, Poland, UK, Italy and others.
- Take a journal to makes notes
- A camera so you can keep a record and make a reference
- Follow the harvesters in your area on twitter and instagram.
- Make a note of the areas, conditions, trees, and topography they’re picking in.
You can also check out the Morel Sightings Map maintained by The Great Morel.
Picking A Morel You Just Found
With a sharp knife cut the morel leaving an inch or less of the stem. The stems are edible and very delicious, but the further down the stem you go the more dirt and grit you’ll end up with.
You can of course pluck them. Take them by the base and with a pinch and a twist pull them out but they will be dirty.
Carrying Your Morels
Be gentle, don’t squash them by piling too many on top of one another. A light airy basket so the mushrooms can breathe would be perfect.
In good condition in the fridge fresh morels will keep for about a week. If you picked wet soggy ones, they will turn faster. Drying is an excellent storage way to look after them for any length of time. Worms can also be an issue. Drying them will allow worms to escape and any dirt and debris to fall away.
Finding, Foraging and Picking Morels is Sustainable?
Like picking an apple from an apple tree, the tree will continue to grow without harm. Underground the mycelium is like a tree that you cannot see. When you harvest a Morel there’s no damage to the mycelium.
Beware Of False Morels
When you’re out looking Morels for the table, you must take care. Edible Morels look very similar to poisonous “false morels”, a term used loosly to describe Gyromitra esculenta, Verpa bohemica and many other Morel like mushrooms.
Sometimes false morels can cause severe stomach upset, loss of muscular coordination including the cardiac muscle and even death. Usually they are eaten in large quantities for severe poisoning or over several days in a row.
It’s no joke. It’s estimated that false morels are responsible for up to 23% of mushroom fatalities each year in Poland.
How To Spot a False Morel
- Gyromitra species usually have a wrinkled, brain-like appearance to the cap. Edible Morels are more honeycomb in appearance due to ridges and pits.
- Gyromitra esculenta has a cap that’s usually reddish-brown, chestnut, purplish-brown, or dark brown.
- Gyromitra species have longitudinal sections in their chamber, and Verpa species contain a cotton like substance inside their stem. True edible Morels are always hollow.
- Verpa caps are attached to the stem only at the top of the cap. True Morels are attached to the stem near the base of the cap.
The easiest way to distinguish Verpa species from Morchella species is to slice them longitudinally.
Where to Find Morel Mushrooms In Stores
You’re unlikely to find indoor morel mushrooms growing kits. They’re very difficult to grow inside and it’s also hard to replicate the conditions for growth.
So if you want them you have to go out and find them yourself or them or pay a premium for hand foraged ones.
Starting mid to late spring you’ll find them in high-end restaurants, fresh at farmers’ markets and in high-end grocery stores. They deteriorate quickly and if looked after properly they keep for about a week.
Where to Find Morel Mushrooms Online
You can usually find them in supermarkets and most asian stores.
Why Bother Trying to Find Morel Mushrooms?
Morels are known to contain some of the highest amounts of Vitamin D among all edible mushrooms. You can get 34% of your daily required levels of Vitamin D from 100 grams.
Studies have shown that Morels could strengthen your immune system and overall immune function.
Extracts from Morel mycelium has been shown to to provide protection against liver damage.
Studies on Morels have shown they contain high levels of antioxidants.Your body uses antioxidants to protect you from free radicals that cause of heart diseases, Parkinson’s disease and Diabetes.
New scientific studies are being carried out all the time and we are so excited to find out what other health benefits Morels have.
How to Grow Morel Mushrooms At Home
Yes, there are a handful of experimental Morel growing operations. Morels are very difficult to grow commercially.
If you want to have a go at growing them at home you can buy kits on Amazon but you should check the reviews for yourself. The reviews usually say all that needs to be said on the success of these kits. It can take two seasons before they ever start to produce any mushrooms and even then according the reviews I’ve seen it might not work.
I would be very dubious of any grow kits of mushrooms teks that make it seem as easy as Shiitake or Oyster mushrooms. Trying to find Morels mushrooms in the wild is hard but trying to grow them yourself is even harder. There are two main reasons why.
Morels are Mycorrhizal Fungi
Mycologists once thought Morel mycelium fed on dead organic material in a process known as saprotrophic nutrition. Now mycologists believe they are mycorrhizal.
In a mycorrhizal relationship everyone wins. The fungi receives carbohydrates from the plant. In turn, the plant gets much more water and nutrients due to the additional surface area of the mycelium.
For that reason it makes Morels much harder to cultivate. You can’t just grow mushroom spawn. Recreating this symbiotic relationship at home is almost impossible.
On top of this, Morels aren’t believed to be exclusively mycorrhizal. There is evidence they do feed on dead organic matter but the method they use to feed is still not fully understood.
On top of their symbiotic relationships, growing morels is further complicated because Morels grow sclerotia.
What is Sclerotia
Sclerotium is the dense hardened mycelium. It’s a compacted mass for storing nutrients when environmental conditions are poor. It allows the fungi to survive in a resting state when the weather is too dry or cold.
When winter ends and conditions improve, these sclerotia either produce mushrooms or begin to new mycelium growth. Without the correct temperature and moisture levels the sclerotia wont produce mushrooms.
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