Updated: Jun 12, 2019
Morel mushrooms are foodie's dream. They can be ridiculously expensive, because of the scarcity and their sought after subtle flavour and unique texture. I first came across them at cooking school. I trained at Le Cordon Bleu Paris Cooking School, and the dish we prepared with morels was opulent French cooking at its' best. If I can recall it was a restrictively expensive piece of meat or game, with sauteed sweet breads, and morels, with cream and cognac, and just the richest, most glorious flavours and textures known to humanity. Sweetbreads and morels on toast with cognac and cream, sounds heart stoppingly amazing. Note to self.
So I happen to spend quite a bit of my time in the Pacific Northwest, and it just happens to be Spring time, heading into summer. Morels are at their peak. So this year I decided to create Eat the World and get the source of my food more often. I want to see where it comes from, how it grows, what makes it tick. I find this incredibly exciting!
Temperature and moisture are by far the most important factors for morel growth. Morels will not grow if the soil is too warm or cold. They also tend to like moist soil, but with good drainage. Slopes tend to be hot spots. Sunnier slopes in the early season is a good starting point.
Disturbed ground, dead trees, clear cuts and wildfire burns create ideal conditions for Morel booms. A good place to start is searching for wildfire burn maps for your local area from the previous year. These are often easily available. Here's some helpful guidelines to help you find the elusive Morel.
Know how to recognize tree species.
Morels can be often found near certain kinds of trees, fruit trees, sycamore, hickory, and probably the most popular are elm trees. Dead elm trees tend to create abundant morel populations.
American elms have tall straight trunks. Branches start high and grow upward to form an arching shape like a vase or umbrella. The bark of an elm tree is thick and rough, usually dark grey to greyish brown with deeply grooved ridges. Brown
and beige layers alternate in the cross section of the bark, and have a rough, flaky appearance. The leaves are dark green, up to 9 cm (3.5 inches) long and 2.5-5 cm (1-2 inches) wide with double toothed edges. The leaf underside is rough because of raised veins and the two lobes next to the leafstalk are unequally rounded. Notice in the photo how the leave are off set, there is not a pair sprouting from one spot, but staggered up the branch.
So with this in mind, searching out the right trees in the right area in the right conditions will immensely grow your chances of finding these. Make sure to look under leaves, these create great micro environments for Morels to grow, so don't be afraid to shuffle around the forest floor. Once you do find a morel, there are very good chances that they have some brothers and sisters very nearby. You can often find morels in a straight line, as the wind has blown the spores in neat straight direction, but in general if you've found one, keep looking in the general area.
Beware the false Morel
Morels are very unique, but there are some mushroom varieties that can mimic
characteristics of the morel. If you compare the photo at the top with this one, you will see that there is a big difference. While they can be similar, there are certain attributes to morels which make them undeniably morels.
Firstly, a true morel will be hollow inside. False morels won't be. Morel caps will be attached at the base of the cap to the stem. False morels will often be attached at the top of the stem. The cap will often fall off very easily. So please be careful, as false Morels can be toxic. It is always best to get advice from someone who knows the difference.
I hope you all have a great time hunting these beautiful delicacies, and making the most of nature's gourmet shop. I'll attach a link shortly for a foraging video I posted on my Youtube Channel, which is my Part 1 video on Morels. Part 2 is the fun bit, I'll be cooking up something spectacular and opulent. Maybe something to reacquaint myself with my cooking school days! I'll attach that link as well! Happy hunting!
PART 1 Foraging https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzvLAYcLek8&t=153s