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Morels make for tasty find in the forest/Brian Hess

May 11, 2012
The Daily Mining Gazette

May is a great time to be outside in the Copper Country. The bugs typically aren't bad and the forests really start to come alive. It's also a great time for hunting. The hunting that I'm talking about is morel hunting. Although they can appear earlier or later, these highly coveted fungi generally fruit in May so it's a good time to go look for them.

Morel mushrooms are an edible species of mushroom in the Morchella genus. They are edible when cooked and considered by many to be the best mushroom out there. Eating uncooked morels has caused people to have digestive upset so if you are lucky enough to find them or be given them, please be sure to cook them. They are great in soups and pasta dishes but are perfectly tasty sauted in butter with a little salt and pepper. They can be gritty or buggy so it's a good idea to slice through them and remove any debris with a brush or rinse with water. Some people also soak them in salted water to clean them as well, but I've only had limited success with that.

Cooking morels is the easy part. Finding morels is not so easy, especially if you are starting from scratch. If you are not familiar with them, it is wise to have a good identification book as a guide. Although they are very distinct looking they can be confused with other mushrooms that are questionable. Morels are rather difficult to see and blend in with their surroundings surprisingly well. They can be confused with dead leaves, pinecones, and even old dried up apples. Also, people who know where to find a patch of morels generally don't share their secret spot.

I am by no means an expert at finding morels. I've been fortunate enough to have some locations shared to me. Once I even crossed paths with a guy who pointed them out to me after I was probably walking over them all day. A couple things I have learned through experience and reading, have helped me on my hunts.

Morels tend to show up in disturbed areas such as roadsides, logging areas, and locations that have had forest fires. They also seem to like old orchards, aspen, and coniferous forests. If you actually find one, before picking it, place something next to it that you can easily see like a stick. Settle down and observe it. Note how it looks compared to its surroundings then look around for similar looking items. Often times more of them will suddenly appear as if out of nowhere once your eye gets adjusted to know what you're looking for.

Even if you are not so successful with morel hunting there are other options to gather from the woods this time of year. With another identification book or two, you can be collecting other wild edibles. Also in season are fiddle head ferns which are widely distributed and wild ramps that aren't as common but worth collecting if you know what you are looking for. Please remember that if you ever have doubts on the correct identification of something you plan to eat, don't risk it.



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