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Morel Foraging

Tips on Morel Foraging: The Craft of Hunting for the Yellows

Tips on Morel Foraging: The Craft of Hunting for the Yellows

Spring is still a dream and morels are just yet a fantasy. However, it’s not too early to prime and read up on foraging for these tasty yellows that are scattered through the woodlands come spring time. Morels are wild mushrooms harvested during springtime by avid foragers. Unlike other fungi, these are wild and can’t be tamed for commercial production. Their symbiotic relationship with individual trees and outdoor elements make them thrive in the wild and can’t be replicated in a controlled environment. Foragers, particularly mushroom hunters, relish the spring season as the hunt of the elusive morels commences.

Morel Mushroom

Morel Mushrooms growing in a wooded area. (Photo Credit: LakeoftheWoodsMN)

Mushroom foragers will never give away their secret spots. That’s the first rule a novice has to remember. Seasoned hunters may give tips and vague description of locations where you might find these spring treasures. Take notes and observe veteran foragers but never assume they’ll tell you all. These are sacred spots that they try to care for and hope to come back to again and again for their pickings. You’ll have to discover your treasure space. You first have to develop a keen eye for details on where morels thrive.

Morel Mushroom hutning

Morel Mushroom hunting can be a challenge (http://theurbanmushroom.com)

How Do I Find Morel Mushrooms?

Morel Foraging Gear:

Going into the woods looking for morels does not require much except to keep yourself covered from head to foot. Wear a cap and even a hair-net underneath the hat to protect your hair and scalp from the dreaded tick. Woody areas are home to ticks. You are there to hunt for morels and not to get Lyme disease from tick bites. So caps or hats are essential as well as; long-sleeved shirts, jacket, and pants to protect your skin from insects, poison ivy and thorny weeds that may cause abrasions, allergies, and itches. And don’t forget socks and rubber shoes for comfort on your long walk. It’s also smart to bring some food along such as a light snack, lunch, and beverages.Ideally, a basket or a mesh bag is good storage material for morels to keep them being deformed or squished from walking and traveling and bring a small sharp knife for cutting.

Morel Forging basket

Morel Hunting with a basket (http://www.kateyschultz.com)

The Elements: How It Affects Morel Hunting

Let’s talk about the weather. Morels thrive in warmer temperatures. When the temperature goes up to between the 50’s and 70’s, then it’s time to hit the woods and look for those yellow morsels. Foragers usually bring a soil thermometer to check if the ground temperature is suitable for foraging and more or less favorable results. The fungi grow abundantly in soil that’s been showered by rain but isn’t soaking wet. They grow in loamy soil as this holds just enough water necessary for growth. A day after rain is a good day to look for the fungi.


The Trees


Mushrooms and trees have a symbiotic relationship that’s deep and mysterious. Morels grow alongside specific trees for nourishment and shade. All-time favorites are elm and ash trees, preferably dying or already dead. Other species of trees such as aspen, oak, beech, maple, cottonwood, cherry, sycamore, poplar, and apple are also the fungi’s preferred partners. Look into old apple orchards and other places where these trees grow, 15 meters in diameter around the trees.


Other ideal spots are a river or creek banks with good, still a bit moist, but well-drained loamy soil. So don’t forget to walk through these areas as well. Looking at the south side of things is a good idea. During early spring, south facing hills, forests, river or creek banks get the most exposure to the sun. Look into nooks and crannies facing south and west as temperatures in these areas are ideal for the fungal growth. Burned forest grounds, clearings from tree cuts and other disturbed grounds are also locations to look into when foraging. Disturbed soil and rotting tree stumps or big branches should not be missed.


The Method


Foraging is like hunting, as it requires patience and endurance to track down your target. Walk slowly and go low wherever there are dying or dead elms, sycamore or other preferred trees, river or creek banks. Examine the whole area first to see signs, trees, ground, and surroundings then go down low to your knees or use a stick to look. When you locate the morel, cut ½ inch of the stem above the ground. Do not pull and disturb the undergrowth - system of the fungal growth. Remember that the whole fungus is underneath and morels are the buds peeking out to distribute the spores. Use a basket or mesh bag to store the foraged caps, don’t use plastic or a closed up bag as you’ll still want to distribute the spores and letting them breathe keeps the freshness of the fungi.


Kinds of Morels By Color and How to Watch Out for the False Ones


Morels are usually grouped by their size and colors. The first ones to appear during their season are small and gray, but as the weeks pass on, you’ll see bigger yellow ones. The season for foraging usually lasts for between 2 and four weeks. The fungi are popular for novice foragers because they are hard to miss and rarely mistaken for poisonous mushrooms with the unique honeycomb shape of their caps. False Morels are easy to spot because of the color, more on the reddish shade than gray or yellow, and hollow inside.


Cleaning


There are different ways of cleaning your treasures, washing, scrubbing with a wet brush or brining. Wash the morels under running water to get most of the dirt out then pat dry with paper towel and dry as much as you can. Others scrub the morels with a wet brush and wipe with a wet towel then let the natural air dry. Another method is to soak them in a brine of water and salt for 15 minutes to let the silt and dirt subside to the bottom of the bowl. Brining also kills any insects that might be in the crevices. After brining, remove and towel dry the mushrooms. These can be stored for up to a week without losing their flavors.

If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave a comment below or email us at info@hfdepot.com. Please send us pictured of your morel findings or out in the woods looking for these yellows.

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