How to Find Delicious Morel Mushrooms

A man searches for a morel mushroom in the woods.

It’s time. Time to put on your outdoor footwear and search for elusive morel mushroom!

I’ll let you in on a little secret – here are some surefire places to look. The top of the hill, the bottom of the hill and don’t forget the side of the hill. Wet areas are also good, as well as road sides and practically dry locations. You’ll want to search around the many dead ash trees, along with tulip poplar and elm. It’s said if you’re not searching around wild black cherry, you’re not mushroom hunting! But that’s the problem, they seem to grow almost anywhere as well as nowhere. I’ve seen morel mushrooms in urban landscape beds and on athletic fields.

Morels are delicious; eat some now and freeze some for later. To remove any impurities or bugs, cut them in half and then soak them in a bit of salt water. Put them on a cookie sheet, spread out and not touching. Place them in a 1-gallon freezer bag and pull some out for special occasions.

As a reminder, do not eat anything you collect from the woods until you have a positive identification of what it is.

A black morel mushroom begins to sprout on the forest floor.
Can you find a teeny black morel mushroom like this one?

It’s simple to tell them apart from other fungi. First of all, morel mushrooms are beautiful! The inside of a morel mushrooms is whitish and hollow. They look a lot like a brain. Oblong, short or tall, the hollow cap runs through the entire stem. They can be white, black, brown or yellow. The black morels are the first to pop and are also the smallest. Mushroom season concludes with the big yellow morels sprouting. Yellow morels can be as big as a pop can sometimes.

There are old mushroom hunters and bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old bold mushroom hunters! When you head out in search of morel mushrooms, know what to look for and don’t confuse them for false, or potentially dangerous, fungi.

A group of morel mushrooms sit next to a quarter to show how small they are.
The caps on morel mushrooms look like tiny brains.

There is a mushroom called a false morel. It’s not hard to tell the difference between false morels and true morels. False morels are not hollow throughout the entire cap and stem. The cap looks as if it has been draped over the stem, and you’ll notice they aren’t hollow. It’s as if they’re two separate parts, the cap and stem. Always cut them in half. True morels will be hollow from tip of the cap to the bottom of the stem. False morels are not hollow at all. Be very careful if you come across false morels – they contain the toxin gyromitrin, which is poisonous to humans if consumed.

The best advice that I can give you to look for morel mushrooms is to concentrate around streams and islands of those streams that flood periodically. Rich, undisturbed soils are also a good place to begin your quest.

Happy mushroom hunting! It’s over before you know it, so get out there! If you find any you don’t want, send them my way!

Eric King
Nature Interpreter, Parky’s Farm