Morels (Morchella) are a springtime favorite of any forager. Morels are often found in areas that have been logged or burned the previous year but also grow naturally in the right conditions. Morels are easily identifiable by their unique rounded, cone-shaped cap, characterized by deep pits and ridges. Additionally, unlike many other species of mushrooms, morels have a hollow stem (stipe) that is whiteish in color. There are approximately 80 subspecies of Morchella ranging in color from black to yellow, but all true morels are edible. Morels begin fruiting around April and can be found throughout the summer at higher elevations. While morels can be found at a variety of elevations, soil temperature above 50 degrees and adequate rainfall are key to growth. While early spring morels can be found on sun-facing mountain slopes, these same spots will become too hot and dry for mushrooms later in the season.
Approximately 1-5 years old
Search around log piles and up skids
Fallen trees should still have some orange color, if they are all grey the logging is likely too old
Can be found out in the open near other small vegetation such as wild strawberry plants and flowers
Conifer and hardwood forests
The tree line or edge of forested area
Around dead/dying trees
Prior to harvesting morels, be sure to check in with your local BLM office to inquire about the local regulations and purchase any permits you might need. Many areas allow foragers to harvest up to a gallon of mushrooms for personal use without a permit. However, some wilderness areas are limited, and a commercial permit is required if you intend to sell the morels you harvest.
When harvesting morels, cut the stipe, leaving the base (volva) in the ground. Carry harvested morels in a mesh-type bag, basket, or open bucket to prevent them from sweating and becoming too moist. Since morels can mold, it is best to prepare or dry them within a day or so of harvesting. To prepare morels, soak them at least one hour in salt water to draw out any bugs prior to cooking. All species of Morchella should be well cooked before consumed.
Disclaimer: Never eat a wild mushroom that you are unable to positively identify. While all species of Morchella are edible, some individuals experience digestive upset when consuming certain subspecies, consume only in small quantities if you are unsure of your tolerance
Huntress View team member Jennifer James is from Oregon and enjoys hunting, fishing and foraging. Follow her on Instagram at @thewoodsmanswife or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheWoodsmansWife/.