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What the Heck Are Morels?

What the Heck Are Morels?

Morels are a type of wild mushroom that grow in spring. They are a popular and sought after wild food, and many people hunt them to eat or sell. Their scientific name is Morchella, but they are known by a number of colloquial names, too, including dryland fish, hickory chickens, merkels (miracles), and molly moochers.

They feature a distinctive net- or honeycomb-patterned cap and come in three color varieties: gray, yellow, and black. Morels grow in moist ground throughout the United States and Canada, where they tend to bloom between mid-April and mid-June.

Rich in vitamin D and several B vitamins, including folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, and thiamine, morels also provide potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and iron.

You can sometimes find morels at the grocery store. If you plan to pick your own morels, be sure to take an experienced hunter along with you. As with any type of mushroom, it’s possible to accidentally pick poisonous varieties. Several so-called “false morels” exist and can confuse novice pickers. Most false varieties feature a wrinkled, brain-like cap, instead of the characteristic honeycomb pattern of a true morel. It is vital to practice 100% identification. Be sure to bring along a mushroom guide containing large, clear, full-color photos.

Here are a few recipes to help you enjoy these delicious springtime fungi. If it’s not morel season, you can make these with any type of musroom:

Fried Morels
Ingredients:
1 pound morel mushrooms
1/2 cup olive oil
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 sleeve of saltine crackers, finely crushed
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Carefully clean morels with a damp paper towel and cut them in half, lengthwise. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Beat the eggs and milk together, coat the morels in the mixture, and toss them in the cracker crumbs. Place the morels in the heated oil and cook on both sides until golden brown. Remove the morels and drain them on a paper towel. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Morels in Wine Sauce
Ingredients:
1 pound morel mushrooms
3 tablespoons butter
2 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
Salt to taste

Directions
Carefully clean morels with a damp paper towel and cut them in half, lengthwise. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the morels and scallions and cook until the morels are slightly browned. Use a slotted spoon to remove the morels and scallions. Place them on a plate and set them aside. Add white wine and salt to the remaining butter and boil the liquid until it thickens into a syrup. Add the morels and scallions back into the skillet toss the mixture together until coated. Serve.

Scrambled Eggs with Morels
Ingredients:
1/2 pound morel mushrooms
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter
3 scallions, chopped
1/2 dozen eggs, beaten

Directions:
Carefully clean morels with a damp paper towel and cut them in half, lengthwise. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the morels and scallions and cook until the morels are slightly browned. While the morels are cooking, beat the eggs and the milk together. Pour the egg mixture over the browned morels and scallions. Scramble together until the eggs are fully cooked.

Morels and Asparagus
Ingredients:
1/2 pound fresh morels
2 tablespoons butter
2 bunches asparagus
1 shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced

Directions:
Carefully clean morels with a damp paper towel and cut them in half, lengthwise. Cut the asparagus into 1” pieces. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the morels, shallots, garlic, and asparagus. Cook until the morels have browned and the asparagus is tender, about 10 minutes.

15 comments

1 Lynne { 04.01.14 at 5:57 pm }

20 years ago I found an abundance of morels but, then so did a lot of other people…….these people never learned the right way to pick morels so that there could be future pickings……..use a netted bag to carry them in and swing it lightly while carrying it so the spores can fly and spread elsewhere to reproduce, do not use plastic bags for picking. Learnt this from some serious pickers. They grow in a lot of wooded areas and where tops of ridges. They love to grow in orchards under apple trees but, if the orchard is being used, I would be leary of picking there as a lot of orchards still use chemicals to spray their trees and I would be afraid the morels would be soaking up these chemicals.

2 Traci { 04.01.14 at 12:45 am }

I live in Denver and was wondering if morels are popular anywhere in co? I wasnt aure if its too cold now or even too dry in the spring/summer for them to grow!? Thanks!

3 Monica Zumbrunn { 03.31.14 at 11:40 pm }

I live in Alberta, Canada, but I have land in British Columbia. I go out there every spring in hopes of arriving at the right time. The last two years I was a bit late and the morels were past prime and ‘wormy’. Maybe this year!! Thanks for the recipes. I hope to enjoy them soon.

4 Darlene { 03.31.14 at 5:50 pm }

When I was a kid, we found them on the farm in Ohio … My favorite mushroom of all … They were the best!! Haven’t seen them again since I moved to Florida … But have told many about them!!

5 tim { 03.31.14 at 4:41 pm }

All you people who soak em are not getting the true flavor. Just a quick rinse, coat em in flour, salt, and pepper, then fry em up. You’ll never know you ate a couple tiny bugs.

6 Deb Newell { 04.29.12 at 4:32 am }

As with any mushroom you have to soak it over night in salt water thereby getting ALL the worms out…otherwise you’ll alittle more protein. We find our morels in the woods/forest just as the snow line is melting and in the burn area’s along with calf brains and calf ears both good eating…..

7 Nancy { 04.27.12 at 9:47 am }

Has anyone ever found any on the Eastern Shore of Maryland?

8 Marian { 04.26.12 at 12:48 am }

We’ve found morels in grassy areas,in the woods and in fields.We soak them in salt water to get the bugs out and use them in our spaghetti sauce,they are wonderful.Some people have told us they find them where there were old burns,but we never found any in burn areas.

9 jameskingsbury { 04.25.12 at 10:49 pm }

My inlaws have a thirty acre apple orchard. One very wet spring a few years ago we harvested about 5 bushels of morels. The seem to grow under the trees where there was no or little grass, bare ground. they seem to do even better in the earth that was scratched up by the wild turkeys and the free range chickens. We still have some dried in the freezer and use them frequently. Oh ya, they also seem to like the sand, lossened not packed hard like shaggy manes do. Happy hunting.

10 Michael { 04.25.12 at 5:01 pm }

One of the best places to look for them is under apple and plum tree’s

11 Jamie Frederick { 04.25.12 at 4:48 pm }

I live in Pennsylvania. Haven’t found any yet. But the nights have been cold.

12 Mary { 04.25.12 at 10:03 am }

We look by elm trees and sometimes where the woods and pine trees meet.

13 Mary { 04.25.12 at 10:02 am }

We love to morel hunt! What a great taste and a treat. We think they have a nutty flavor. We soak ours to get the bugs out of them before we just fry them in butter.

14 Jaime McLeod { 04.23.12 at 9:47 am }

Dianne, I have no idea! Your best bet would be to find a message board for morel hunters and see where other folks in your area have had luck. Of course, people are often reluctant to give up their secret spots. Here’s one place you can start: http://www.morels.com/boards/

15 Dianne L. Barnett { 04.23.12 at 3:14 am }

I live in Georgia, where are the best places to try hunting for fresh “wild-growing” morels?

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