MOREL MUSHROOMS HOW TO FIND, COOK AND GROW THE DELCIOUS MOREL MUSHROOM
Morel mushrooms are arguably the very favorite mushroom of all edible mushrooms. While White Truffles are incredibly costly at around $3,000 a pound, and Matsuke is terribly rare, they still don’t inspire anything like the devoted following that the Morel Mushroom has generated.
Some Morel enthusiast state that there are 5 or 6 kinds of Morels, but taxonomic studies show that there are actually more than 170 varieties of Morel Mushrooms. Some are smaller than a marker tip, while others are nearly knee-high. They range colors in every shade of yellow, black, grey, brown and cream. All Morel Mushrooms are completely hollow, have an attached stem and have a very distinctive honeycomb patterned exterior, which makes them the easiest mushroom for budding mycologists and foragers to identify.
Every spring, foragers scour the forest, under assault from an endless cavalry of horseflies, deerflies, mosquitoes, ticks, and weather, with many of the most dedicated Morel hunters renouncing both showers and adequate sleep until the springs hunt is over. It’s a hectic, frenetic 3 months, with every rain bringing a mass of deet doused, camo covered, cloth bag bearing mushroom hunters out of the woodwork and into the woods.
So what’s so special about the Morel Mushroom?
Most importantly, they are unspeakable tasty!
Describing the flavor of Morels is akin to attempting to describe the feel of sudden sunshine on a grey day, or grandma’s stew, piping hot, after a long day of winter play. It is, simply put, indescribable. The most dedicated of mushroom haters are converted by a single dish of fried Morels. Morels taste as though you are eating something that is exactly just right, no matter how you prepare them.
Morels can be cooked with a dash of salt and butter for a treat unlike any other. It is only for Morels that you will find 5 star chefs conducting backdoor deals with dirt streaked foragers. Morels draw the cubicle bound and the farm hand alike into the woods, they are simply that good.
They are expensive! Easily fetching prices of $20 a pound fresh, and $200 a pound dried.
Until recently, Morel Mushrooms were very hard to cultivate. Only with the most precise controls and environment could a small amount of Morels be farmed. That has changed as more developments have been made in the field of mycology. Now there are quite a few methods of commercial growing that are currently being tested, with some very promising results.
In the last few years cultivated Morels have become available at many grocery stores and online stores. As methods are further developed there will certainly be an increase in Morel supply, but current demand is very far ahead of potential supply, so prices are unlikely to fall.
Small growers and backyard gardeners have been growing Morel Patches for about 15 years now, and while the results are not consistent enough for commercial applications they are perfect for home growers and some adventurous foragers. One of the keys to growing Morel Mushrooms successfully is having a strong root network of nearby plants that the Morel mycelium can attach to. Morels are symbiotic and need to attach to host roots to grow.
Morels have a really short growing season
Under the best of conditions they’ll fruit for about 3 months, dependent on the vagaries of nature. To little rain in the early spring and the Morels will only pop up in the valleys and water holding areas. To much and they’ll only fruit in the dry spots and high elevations. A cold snap or a few hot days can stop the fruiting for weeks, until better conditions return. There are even a few varieties of Morels which fruit in the fall for the dedicated foragers.
While patents for cultivating Morels were granted as far back as 1986, the Morel mushroom is very much dependent on the natural signals of spring to begin fruiting. Commercial crops are limited to a few months of production each year, when they fruit naturally in the wild. Though the time can be extended some, the commercially cultivated Morels are still a long way from suppling the demand.
How to get your own Morels
Just buy some right? It’s not as easy as you might think to buy Morels.
If your are lucky enough to live near a farmers market or a high end grocery store you might be able to find Morels for sale, (often for over $40 a pound) a few times during season. Higher end restaurants will sometimes advertise specials featuring them for a few weeks whenever they manage to secure a small supply. Nearly all of the online vendors are seasonal and depend mostly on the harvest they can buy from foragers and home growers.
Most of the world supply is grown or foraged in Pakistan, China and North America, and the demand for Morels always outpaces the supply since every year more and more people have their first taste of this amazing mushroom. Even the New York Times gets excited about Morels! It’s not always easy to purchase Morel Mushrooms, and if you want more than a few ounces you need to either find them or grow them yourself. WARNING: One can become infected with Morel Madness after a single bite. In severe cases the onset of spring causes those so afflicted to flock into the forest with their heads bent to the ground, wandering nearly aimlessly for weeks, in the effort to gather a few sacksful of this elusive and delicious mushroom.
So over the hills and into the woods to secure our Mushroom supply.
If you can find a local foray group for mycology, or perhaps for Morels in particular, then your in luck. Join up and get your walking shoes on. Following (both physically on foraging trips and also on social media) other morel foragers in the area will give you first hand knowledge of the local conditions which produce Morels and when you should be out there hunting them. The best times and conditions will vary from area to area and even from year to year, so check what the seasoned Morel foragers in your general area are up to and imitate them for the first year.
Foraging Morels is an excellent way to get outside while doing something rewarding. Mushroom hunting is a sustainable, healthy, and actually helps the mushrooms. The fruitbody we see is often less than 1% of the mycelium. The mycelium is the real body of the mushroom, while the part we see above ground is more akin to a fruit. When ripe, it can be picked and enjoyed with no harm to the larger body, just like an apple or plum.
The fruitbody has a single purpose: to spread the spores as far and wide as possible, so picking and then carrying a mushroom around is great for the mushroom species. Walking with a mushroom spreads the spores in a much farther pattern and into many more areas than would have been possible by wind and rain. Simply by carrying the mushrooms you can help plant them in new areas.
Backyard Morel Garden? Yes, Please!
As we mentioned earlier, the techniques and methods for growing Morels have gotten better recently. Commercial growers are producing huge amounts every season, and foragers are increasing in number every year. There are now multiple possibilities for growing a patch of your own Morel Mushroom right at home.
Our Morel Mushroom Grow Kits have been producing Morels in yards and home gardens for more than 10 years and are now available worldwide. It is the easiest method of starting a Morel Mushroom patch ever created, and incorporates the highest quality organic ingredients and methods. Our Morel Kits will produce pounds of mushrooms each year, and keep producing with very little effort once established.
Enjoy the Harvest
Morels should be used or preserved in the first week after harvest, but with mushrooms sooner is often better. A basic dehydrator on it’s lowest setting works well to dry your morels, and a airtight jar will keep them preserved for many months.
Ready them for cooking by adding a bit of water and allowing 15-20 minutes for the morels to rehydrate.