Morels are popping up all over Brooklyn, Michigan and Jackson County. If you are new to the hunt, here are some tips to find the elusive, much-sought-after gourmet mushroom.
Where to Find Them
Morels grow in unpredictable locations. I have found them in the mulch underneath my deck, in my flower gardens, and in the yard. Those were all hit-my-knees-and-thank-God occasions.
I’ve had my best luck with morels underneath dead elm trees, in old apple orchards, and just plain luck. Morels are known to pop up beneath ash trees as well. Keep an eye out when driving by areas where people are roaming around with mesh bags, walking very slow, eyes to the ground. Tip: No one will tell you where to find morels. You must be proactive. Check the DNA website for areas they did a “controlled burn” in a forested area as that often produces morels the following year.
Jackson County and the Brooklyn area are hosts to many state and county parks. Take advantage of the free nature walk that may conclude with a bag full of shrooms! It's the perfect time to get out and explore with family and friends and get some exercise.
How to Hunt for Morels
Save a close-up picture on your phone and study it to train your eye. Walk slowly and do a sweeping, scanning motion, focusing out 5 to 25 feet. Morels don’t typically jump out at you. Avoid marshy wetlands. Morels don’t like their “feet” wet. Carry a spore bag, instead of a plastic grocery bag so your morels will (hopefully) propagate in the area. A potato or onion bag makes a great DIY spore bag.
What to Do When You Find a Morel
My mother always says, “Every morel has a brother.” If you find one, there is likely one or many in the area. If need be, get on the ground and get a mouth-to-morel view.
Clip the stem with snippers or your nails. Never dig them up by the root. Once you spot one, scan the area carefully and check underneath dead leaves, branches, and debris. Never rake the area.
How to Know a True Morel vs. a False Morel
Don’t ever eat a mushroom when you are not sure what it is. Morel’s have look-alikes that can be harmful, even deadly to humans. Get an experienced mushroom hunter to advise you and get a mushroom identification handbook. If in doubt, don’t take the chance of consuming it.
There are two main differences between true and false morels. A true morel will be attached to the stem — they don’t droop. Also, a true morel will be hollow inside, all the way from the top of the cap to the bottom of the stem. Don’t take my word for it — get someone knowledgeable to check your morels before eating them!
What to Do with Harvested Morels
If you would like a traditional recipe, here’s a family recipe we use to pan fry morels:
Slice them lengthwise and flush them with water. Using your fingers, explore the folds and exterminate any insects or slugs. Pat dry.
1–2 pounds of morels
1–1 ½ cup flour
¼ tsp. sea salt (fine works best)
¼ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. pepper (coarse ground is best)
¼ tsp. onion powder
Place dry ingredients in a re-sealable bag.
Toss six morels into the dry ingredients bag and shake until coated. Shake off the excess. Repeat with the remaining morels.
Melt a stick of salt-free butter over medium heat. Once the butter is sizzling, add morels in batches according to your pan’s size. Cook until golden brown (5–7) minutes. Flip the mushrooms with a metal spatula and cook for another 5–6 minutes.
Transfer batches to a paper towel lined platter and pat dry before serving. Optional: add a sprinkle of paprika.
Eat and enjoy! If you find a morel hot spot in the Brooklyn area, feel free to message me the coordinates! Ha!
What is your favorite way to enjoy morels? Put your recipes in the comments!