Morel Mushroom Identification Tips
Ok, so you’ve decided to hunt for morels, now what’s next? Well, first you need to learn how to identify them safely.
Identifying wild mushroom can be intimidating at first but it’s really not as hard as you might think for certain varieties, especially when it comes to morels. Here’s our top identifying features of morels
- Size: They are usually around six inches in height
- Colour: Cream, yellow, tan, black
- Appearance: The distinctive feature of this mushroom is its pointy brain-like hallow cap with a honeycomb like appearance
Warning: There are look-alikes called false morels which contain gyromitrin, a natural carcinogen which when consumed turns into poison in the body. The false morel do not have the honeycomb feature and are more wrinkled in appearance. Cutting the fungi in half will reveal more when identifying this species.
Where is the best place to find morels?
Where to find morels is one the questions asked by every forager. No one knows for definite where morels will appear but they tend to favour specific tree roots, soil types, and mulch depending on your region.
What side of the mountain do morels grow on?
When foraging you should try keep in mind which direction the land is facing. Slopes that face towards the south or west will be warmer earlier in the season than those facing north or east.
The warmer the soil temperature the better chance you have in the fungi lottery!
What trees do morels grow under?
While there are no guaranteed trees to look out for, you should try to learn how to identify the the most common tree species true morels are found under:
- Elm Trees
- Ash Trees
- Apple Trees
- Oak Trees
Our best tip is to search around dying or decaying elm trees or as the Mushroom Expert Bill O’Dea advised us, try the wood chippings around Aldi carparks. They seem to be prosperous locations throughout the UK and Ireland, from what we hear.
What types of soil do morels like?
True Morels need moist soil that is well-drained and gets the sun. So a likely spot to find them will be on a south facing hill side close to a stream or river where the leaves have fallen.
When to forage Morels
The question of when to forage for morels is a tough one to answer. The end of April to the start of May is when you will usually start finding these little fungi popping up out their hiding places.
Keep an eye out for when wild garlic or ramsons start to flower, this can be a sign to check around the tree next to them for some black honeycomb shapes.
The temperature needs to have been consistently warm so the ground is about 10 Celsius or above. The best conditions are when humidity is high, the temperature is t-shirt and shorts weather and the ground has warmed up. Depending on where in the world you are this can be mid-march, or if you’re in the UK and Ireland it’s likely to be early to mid May.
Usually you find the black morels first, then the yellow morels about 2-4 weeks after that.
A good tip in the UK is to keep an eye out for St George’s mushrooms around St. George’s Day. When you start to see mushroom hunters putting these into their baskets you will likely start to find black morels as well.
How to Cook With Morels
Renowned the world over for their flavour, morels are a seasonal delight that both home and professional chefs adore. They are perfect for a seasonal wild mushroom pasta or to accompany other meatier dishes in spring.
Preparing morels is similar to most fungi, simply remove the obvious debris (twigs, grass, dirt etc.) that you can see and soak in salt water for 20 minutes to get rid of any insects that might have moved into the creases. After that, dry them on a paper towel and cut them in half length ways to clean the inside (also a double check for identification here).