Why Hunt Morel Mushrooms?
Foraging for morel mushrooms is an annual spring activity enjoyed by millions of people. It’s so popular because morels are the easiest mushroom to identify, and they have excellent flavor and texture.
Morels are easy to identify because of their distinctive appearance; and because they’re entirely hollow (see the picture of one split). The only other mushroom that looks similar to a morel has a cap (and should not be eaten) rather than being entirely hollow inside. Since morels are so distinctive in appearance, and it’s easy to verify that they’re truly morels (cut them in half and make sure they’re hollow) morel foragers can feel confident about picking and consuming these wild mushrooms.
Timing Is Everything
Morels don’t start showing up until daytime temperatures are in the 60’s and nighttime temperatures are in the 50’s. They appear on southerly slopes and in sunny spots before showing up on northern slopes or in the shade.
Natural indicators that it’s time to look for morels include lilacs budding, open may apples, and flowering bloodroot, trillium, dandelion, and columbine.
Morels often emerge after a warm spring rain when temperatures are right, and that’s an excellent time to go hunting for them.
You can track the progression of morel sightings from South to North each year by clicking here.
Where To Find Them
Morel mushrooms have been found nearly everywhere outdoors but the following locations are particularly good places to look for them:
- Near dead or dying trees – especially dead or dying elm and ash trees. Old apple and peach orchards are also good.
- At the base of slopes with mossy ground or heavy ground cover.
- In river or stream bottoms where the soil is sandy.
- At the edge of woods or fields, and around tree stumps.
They are almost always found in locations where the sun is hitting the ground.
How You Search Is Important
Most successful morel foragers recommend walking slowly and looking about 10 feet ahead to spot morels. Many also suggest that most of your time should be spent looking rather than walking, and that using a hiking stick to flip over fallen leaves, pieces of bark, and may apple leaves will greatly increase success rates.