Morel mushrooms are about to spring up


BUCKHANNON — Morel season is upon us! Morels are a decadent treat in the mountain state and other regions. They are also a hot commodity among chefs as when cooked they are meaty and tender with nutty and woody flavor. Fresh morels are only available for a limited time in the spring, but dried versions are available all year.

According to specialtyproduce.com, morel mushrooms, “botanically classified as Morchella esculenta, are a wild, edible fruiting body of an underground organism known as mycelium. Belonging to the Morchellaceae family, there are many different species of morel mushrooms found in regions across the northern hemisphere. Also known as the True morel, Yellow morel, Common morel and the Sponge morel mushroom, morel mushrooms can be found growing in pastures, orchards and meadows on disturbed ground near spruce, ash, elm and apple trees. They can also be found in burnt forests in the spring season after a large wildfire.”

Morels are highly sought-after secondary to they are unable to be cultivated because they have a delicately balanced growing process. It is noted that morels should not be eaten raw but both the stems and the caps are edible. Morels also vary in appearance. They can be oblong or bulbous and the color can vary from blonde to grey. Size of morels can be as small as your fingertip or larger than an entire hand. Additionally, morels are packed with nutrients including vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Thegreatmorel.com states that the best time to hunt for morels in late March to early June. However, it is also noted this varies depending on geographical location and weather. It is also reported that morels tend to like it when the temperature during the day is 60 degrees and above and nighttime temperatures are around 45 degrees.

Safety is always important when foraging for any mushrooms. Morels can be confused with “false morels,” which are actually toxic. Some ways to differentiate the two species of mushrooms, according to mushroomsite..com, are True morels have pits and ridges in a honeycomb pattern. False morels will have wavy, folded caps. True morels will be completely hollow inside, but a false morel will have cottony fibers or may even be entirely solid. True morels have a stem that will join at or near the bottom of the cap, whereas in False morels, the stems join the top of the cap.”

“Patience is key! You don’t want to be in a hurry,” said Crissy Loudin, who has been hunting morel mushrooms since she was a child. The love for the practice is one that Loudin, and partner Dustin Claypool, are passing down to their 9-year-old son Corbin. “My favorite way to eat them is to egg wash, flour and fry,” said Loudin.

If you haven’t tried morel hunting, it’s a great way to get the family together and explore nature. If you are lucky enough to find these prized treats, there are many recipes available online. Additionally, always err on the side of caution if you cannot tell the difference between true and false morels. True morels are truly a culinary delight!

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