Have you ever foraged for food? Maybe the idea of picking food that you eat from the woods isn’t something you think of when you think of food, but if you’re looking for new ways to save money on groceries or for a healthier, cheaper way to feed your family, foraging is a fantastic way to do it. Learning how to hunt for morel mushrooms is just one way that you can forage for food. If you’re going to forage for food though, you need to know how to identify morel mushrooms safely.
If you’ve never gone mushroom hunting, you may be wondering why it’s important to know how to identify morel mushrooms. It is important to know what makes a morel mushroom an authentic morel, since any other kind of mushroom might be poisonous and do harm to your family. None of us want that so be sure to take the time to learn how to identify them; especially if you’re new to foraging for food.
How to Identify Morel Mushrooms When Foraging for Food
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. You can check it out HERE.
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.
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 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. 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 as well
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.
Morel mushrooms have an earthy smell; not an unpleasant 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 morel mushrooms have caps longer than the stems
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.
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, red) are not morels and should be left alone.
Foraging for food and learning how to identify morel mushrooms isn’t hard. You will need to be diligent in making sure you’re identifying things correctly, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be feeding your family yummy morels in no time!