Morels are among the most popular wild mushrooms in the United States. Prized as delicacies, the spring search for morels turns to obsession for many. If you'd like to joint the hunt, you'll need to know the basics:
- Morel season is short, usually lasting only four to six weeks. The Missouri Department of Conservation suggests adding two weeks to the last frost date to calculate the peak of morel season in your area.
- Morels can be found across Missouri, but predicting exact locations is nearly impossible. Experts and enthusiasts alike can usually agree that morels often appear in forested areas, frequently around the base of trees. Ash, Elm, Apple and Oak trees are thought to be likely sites for morel growth and rotting or dead trees are even better.
- Morels resemble sponges or honeycombs on stalks. They range in color from pale yellow to black. You can recognize a true morel by looking for three distinguishing characteristics: Morels have pitted caps; the base of the caps are fused to the stalks; and the stalks are hollow when sliced open. Lookalikes can often be differentiated by their wavy caps, which hang like skirts over their stalks. The stalks of these false morels are often filled with a white, cotton-like substance as well. False morels may be inedible or poisonous, so experts recommend checking at least two identification guides before eating any wild mushroom.
- Harvest morels by cutting them near the base, above the soil line. Mushroom enthusiasts often recommend collecting your morels in a basket or mesh bag to keep them dry and allow their spores to fall back to the ground as you walk. Morels, as with any wild mushroom, should never be eaten raw. Even edible mushrooms can be difficult to digest and should be eaten sparingly.
Learn more about edible mushrooms at your local branch of the Springfield-Greene County Library. The following guides will aid you in your search:
How to Find Morels by Milan Pelouch.
Morels, True or False: The Essential Field Guide and More by Larry Lonik.
Morels by Michael Kuo.
Be sure to check out the Missouri Department of Conservation’s website. They have a wealth of information about morels and other wild mushrooms as well as an online mushroom identification guide.
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