Mushroom Foraging—The Morel Of The Story

It’s the time when those who practice the age-old art of foraging have waited all year for—searching for morel mushrooms.

Although morels are typically a very easy mushroom species to find, it is vital that those forging for them can tell them apart from false morels.  Where the false morels, known as verpa and gyromitrin mushrooms, have ridges over their caps, morel mushrooms caps present with pits all over them.

Image: WILX

Morels are a spongy mushroom and are typically brown, gray, or yellow.  False morels appear brainlike or saddle-shaped and typically black, gray, white, brown, or even reddish.

As stated above, it is vital that foragers know how to distinguish between the two types of mushrooms, as the false morel can prove to be toxic.

Temperature and moisture the primary factors that contribute to the growth of morel mushrooms.  According to the website

“Morels will not grow if the soil is too warm or cold.  They also tend to like moist soil, so snowy winters and rainy springs are ideal.  It is good to pay attention to snowpack and snowmelt, especially in the mountains.”

When the temperature produces a week of fifty-degree nights, along with some rain, you will usually see the morels begin to pop up.  Other conditions that morels find favorable are those areas where the ground was recently disturbed, such as areas of clear cuts or wildfire burns.

Image: The Spruce

Even though morels are common, they in the same vein can be challenging to find.  Foragers are known to keep their known locations for morel hunting secrets—some taking the secret to their graves.  The rule of thumb amongst foragers is that discussing morel hunting is fine but never reveal where a good spot is.

In the mid-south and the Midwest, the ideal months for morel foraging are April through May.  Most commonly, you will best be able to find morels near trees—such as poplar, sycamore, hickory, ash, and elm trees.  They also favor fruit trees.