Mushroom hunters have long held the evasive morel in high regard, due to its rich, nutty flavor and annual resurgence. Also known for its cone-shaped, highly pitted cap, this popular species of mushroom has captivated the interests of the adventurous (and the hungry) for generations.
Morel sleuths enjoy scouting these mushrooms for a variety of reasons. Some are in it for the adventure and challenge, some for a tasty meal, and others simply for the reward money as people will pay anywhere from $20 to $75 per pound for the fresh fungi.
Because of this, mushroom hunters (much like fishermen) rarely reveal their most successful spots. But never fear – we’ve put together a quick and easy guide to help you seek out and find these elusive morels.
Morel hunting isn’t an exact science, but there are certain locations where they pop up more often than others. Let’s start with the basics – go into the woods.
Morels are almost always found within or on the outside boundary of a forested area. The mysterious mushrooms set up camp near or on dead ash, sycamore, or elm trees. They’ve been known to sprout up near fruit trees and in particularly sandy soils, as well.
Another common hunting tip is to search for areas disturbed by fire or human digging and chopping. Morels are aided by natural fertilizers in these spots, allowing them to grow more abundantly.
The conditions of a specific location are just as important as the location, itself, when it comes to mushroom hunting. A great place to start is temperature and time of year.
In the early day of spring and summer, when temperatures hit a steady 50 to 60-degree average and nights sit evenly in the 40s, morels begin to pop up. Until the weather becomes consistent, the cone-shaped treasures will arrive as a much smaller variety. As the season progresses, however, morels increase in size.
Warm and humid regions are the perfect mushroom breeding grounds. Since sunlight and rainfall are vital ingredients in morel growth, try searching the south and west sides of trees and hillsides. These directions typically receive more sun during peak times of year.
Of course, morels are not the only mushrooms in the forest that grow under similar conditions. It’s important to develop the ability to decipher between a true morel and a false one. An overall rule is: if you have any doubt about a wild mushroom, leave it alone.
Many wild mushrooms are poisonous to humans and animals, causing nausea, vomiting, and possibly even death! You can avoid picking false morels by using several determining factors.
First, most false morels grow directly on the ground. Although true morels may grow on the ground, as well, false ones almost exclusively stick to the forest floor.
Next, inspect the mushroom in question’s cap. The caps of false morels are usually reddish brown, wavy, and hang freely from the stem. True morels are very different. They are attached to their stem and have more of a brownish tan coloring.
If you’ve tried the previous two checks, and still aren’t sure, simply slice the mushroom directly down the middle. Edible morels have a hollow center, while imposters are filled with fibers or chunks of tissue.
Nothing beats first-hand experience. The Muscoda Morel Mushroom Festival provides you the chance to meet and learn from experienced mushroom hunters. Discover and sample delicious recipes alongside like-minded visitors.
There’ll be plenty going on for families, couples, or individuals to enjoy. Get to know the area on a wine or walking tour, marvel at the fireworks display – even soar through the air on helicopter ride! For mushroom hunters and enthusiasts, you couldn’t ask for a better event.
With over 44,000 acres of public land along the banks of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway, the Boscobel area is a mushroom hunter’s paradise. With the above tips and tricks, you have everything you need to step into the woods and begin your search.