Foraging for food can be a great way to help feed your family; especially when you’re foraging morel mushrooms! With a flavor unlike any other mushroom, they are a fantastic addition to anyone’s diet! But learning how to identify morel mushrooms is so important before you go!
Growing up one of my favorite things was when my Dad would bring home morel mushrooms. It didn’t matter how they were cooked, I loved them! My Dad is long gone now, but I still love a good morel mushroom the same as I did back then.
These days it falls to me to go out and do the foraging for them. Now I get to enjoy the entire process and it has given me a far greater appreciate for them. Plus, I get the chance to be in the woods and trust me. I never turn that down.
Safety Tips for Foraging Mushrooms
If you are learning how to forage, it’s important that you learn to do so safely. I don’t think I need to remind you that eating the wrong type of foraged food – not just mushrooms – can cause you to become incredibly ill.
Or it could kill you. Just ask the family of Chris McCandless.
The safety consideration is especially true for mushrooms. That’s why the most important foraging preparation you can do is to learn how to identify mushrooms for foraging. And in the case of this post; how to identify morel mushrooms.
Mushroom Identification Resources
Remember, you should never identify morel mushrooms solely on what you see here. Always check your morels carefully for these characteristics but you can also check with a grower at your local farmer’s market or fellow forager to make sure what you have is a true morel.
Another resource I recommend is the “Idiots Guide to Foraging.” It was written by a personal friend of mine and is one of the best resources for foraging that I know of. I reviewed it right HERE if you are interested in learning more about it.
With that being said, there are certain characteristics that morels will always have. If you find what you suspect are morels but they don’t have these characteristics, it is best to leave them in the ground.
When you’re foraging for food, it is always best to err on the side of caution if you’re unsure.
When Are Morel Mushrooms in Season?
When you are able top forage morel mushrooms will really depend on where you live. In some areas, they don’t grow well so you’ll have a harder time finding them.
However, in areas where they do grow well, the hunting season typically ranges from December to May. Some areas will start finding them later than others and some places will stop finding them sooner than others.
To make it easier on yourself to know when to hunt morels, using a morel sighting map such as what The Great Morel offers can be a huge help.
Morel Mushrooms are Always Hollow
Morels are hollow from the top of the cap all of the way down to the stem. Take a sharp hunting knife – THIS is my daily carry knife – and slice the morel into two pieces from the top to the bottom to be sure.
When you open the morel you will find the entire inside empty, without a trace of any filling or other gunk inside.
Morel Mushrooms are Always Hollow
I know I just told you this, but it bears repeating so you keep it in mind when you’re out identifying morel mushrooms.
True morel mushrooms will be hollow which means if there is any filling, sludge, or gunk on the inside of the morel it is not a true morel.
Cutting the morel open is the only way to do this. If you see signs of any inner sludge or gunk, make it like a small fish and throw it back.
Morel Stems are Hollow
When you’re checking to make certain you have authentic morels, don’t just check the cap of the morel.
Check the stem too since even the stem of the morel will be hollow, free from any gunk or filling. It is worth looking at the inside of the stem when you slice it open, so you can inspect it as well.
Trust me, slicing it open to identify won’t affect the taste whatsoever.
Morel Mushrooms Have an Earthy Smell
Smell is important when you’re foraging which means you should smell your morels, including the stem. Does it smell earthy or does it smell rotting or unpleasant?
It should have a natural, dirt smell. If you smell anything unpleasant or rotting, it is not a true morel. Anything unpleasant to smell is not safe to eat either.
True Morels Have Long Caps
Visually inspecting your mushroom hunting haul is important too.
In most cases, the morel will have a cap longer than the stem. Fake morels tend to not have this feature.
Always check the dimensions of the mushroom, and be sure the cap is dominating when it comes to size.
This is not always the case though. In the photo above, the cap is larger than the stem but the mushroom pictured is a FAKE morel.
It’s best to use all morel identification tips rather than simply relying on one or two to keep your family safe.
Morel mushrooms can vary in color
Morels come in various colors such as brown, grey, and yellow. Don’t disregard a mushroom based on color as color alone is not an indicator of whether you have a true morel or not.
With that said, mushrooms in any other color – white, green, or red like the false morel mushroom in the photo above – are not morels and should be left alone.
How to Prepare Morel Mushrooms for Cooking
Once you have connected enough morels to satisfy yourself, you’ll need to take them home and get them ready for cooking! Like any mushroom, morels are extremely moist and as such should not be soaked in water for an extended period of time.
Instead of soaking them, use a mushroom brush like THIS one that I use to brush off as much of the surface dirty as possible.
Then because they are wild foraged, you will want to rinse them in a mesh colander such as THIS one.
Once they’re clean you’re ready to cook your morel mushrooms!
How to Cook Morel Mushrooms
Morel mushrooms are just that; mushrooms! In other words, they can be cooked and prepared just as you would with any other mushroom.
This means morel mushrooms can be sautéed in butter, breaded and deep fried, used in casseroles or salads or even pressure canned.
You can even dehydrate morel mushrooms for later use!
*This post was originally published in April 2018. It has been updated March 2021.