My family tells me that it is morel mushroom hunting time! They have been out in the fields and have spotted some of the delectable treats. Growing up I only attempted morel hunting once and we didn’t find any but I am told that they really do exist!
Many people are very secretive about the spots where they find them but a common theme that I hear from everyone is to look for them around dead and dying trees, especially Elm but also Cottonwood, Sycamore, Apple and Ash. When you start hunting is more dependent on the weather and soil conditions than by a certain date on the calendar. Morels don’t emerge all at once so if the weather conditions stay favorable you can actually hunt them for several weeks.
While true morel mushrooms are fairly easy to identify and safe to eat, there are some false morels in the woods that are dangerous to eat. Both the true morel and dangerous false morels have a cap or top that looks similar to a sponge. However, the true morel has a hollow stem and top. If the interior has chambers, or cottony mass, it is likely a false morel and should not be eaten. According to Dr. Mark Gleason, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Plant Pathology Specialist, a good way to remember if it is safe to eat is: if the stalk isn’t hollow don’t swallow! It is always a good idea to go with someone that can positively identify the edible, true morel during your first few hunts.
Remember to bring a basket, paper or mesh bags with you to carry your harvested morels. They are very delicate and moist can be easily crushed. They can also spoil if they are left in plastic bags for very long. Morels can be kept as picked (not washed) in the refrigerator for 1-2 days, three days at the very most for safety’s sake. They are best cleaned by using a mushroom brush right before you cook them. If you want to clean them with water do a quick rinse. Do not soak them in water.
So once you find them here is information on how to prepare them.
Most people cut in half or slice, rinse, dip them in beaten egg, and dip in flour or cracker crumbs. Fry in small amount of margarine or butter. They usually are crisp and brown in 3-4 minutes. Serve immediately.
Prepare as for a meal (noted above). Put them on a tray and freeze individually and then package in freezer bags or boxes. To prepare them for eating, place on a baking sheet and heat in the oven.
Morels can also be blanched (anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the size of the piece), chilled in cold water, drained and frozen. Mushrooms frozen using the blanching method would be best used in soups, stews and casseroles.
WILD MUSHROOMS CAN NOT BE CANNED SAFELY.
So strap on your boots and head out to the woods. You will have enjoyed the day outside and the time spent with family and friends. If you are lucky enough to find some morels you will also enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Food Preservation, Food Safety, recipes