Hunting The Elusive Morel Mushroom: A Spring Survival Food

Easter has come and gone but the BIG HUNT is far from over. In central Indiana the weather conditions have been PERFECT to coax out the elusive Morel mushroom in big numbers. It’s very rainy mixed with warm sunny days. I avidly gather wild edibles and consider hunting for edibles a part of my weekly ‘grocery shopping’ routine. The rise of the morels marks the beginning of an abundant wild edible season – SPRING.

Yellow Morel - Hello Dinner!

Yellow Morel - Hello Dinner!

A little about Morels…

Morel mushrooms (Morchella esculenta) are one of my favorite wild edibles and I look forward to hunting them each year. It’s a short season – usually about 2-3 weeks or so depending on the weather – and sometimes not at all. One question you never want to ask a Morel Mushroom hunter is – Where do you hunt for Morels? It makes for a pretty awkward moment. Most hunters keep their morel locations (called STANDS) a closely guarded secret.

Morel Stand - Look Closely

Morel Stand - Look Closely

There are all kinds of theories about where they grow best and what type of soil and around what kind of trees but I’ve never really found any certain theory to be completely accurate nor reliable. I’ve had best luck in damp environments where there is a lot of fallen debris such as old logs, branches, etc… However, I’ve also found them in near open clear areas as well. They key is once you find a stand of Morels, remember where it is. There are a few strategies I use to help ensure next years crop.

A Near Perfect Yellow Morel

A Near Perfect Yellow Morel

Strategy # 1
My first trick is that I use either a loosely woven basket or a mesh bag (such as an old onion or potato sack) when gathering morels. I’ve heard this allows any loose spores to fall through while you are walking around – hopefully helping to sew next year’s crop. Whether it’s true or not, I do it.

Morels with Potatoe Sack

Morels with Potato Sack

Strategy # 2
My next trick is that I never pick all of the morels. I leave some that will hopefully help provide next years crop.

Another Yellow Morel

Another Yellow Morel

Strategy # 3
When I bring my morels back to the house, I typically wash them off and cut off any bad parts and trim the stems, etc… After I’m done I always take the wash water and all the bits and pieces back to one of my locations and dump it all there – hoping to again help sew next years crop. Does it work? I’m not 100% certain – but I know it can’t hurt.

Morel with HUGE Stem

Morel with HUGE Stem

How do I prepare Morels to eat?

You can prepare morels in all kinds of ways. The sky is the limit really. My favorite way to prepare them is to simply dip them in an egg and milk bath and roll them in a cornmeal, salt and pepper mix and then pan fry them in a bit of oil.

Pan fried Morels - Dry Land Fish

Pan fried Morels - Dry Land Fish

I’ve also been know to saute them and mix them in with a fresh pasta or spread them on toast.

Fresh Morel Pasta

Fresh Morel Pasta

Morels are excellent when roasted with chicken or lamb as well. Just mix them in with any other vegetables you might use when roasting such as potatoes and carrots.

Roasted Lamp Chops with Morels

Roasted Lamb Chops with Morels

This year, I will find more morels than I can eat. I will give some away. I will also DRY THEM. To dry morels, simply cut them in half and spread out on paper towels and let them air dry. You can also dry them in the oven on the lowest heat setting with the door cracked open – make sure you aren’t cooking them, though. If you have a dehydrator – this is most efficient. Drying morels tends to intensify the flavor and they make for excellent additions to stews later on.

When in the bush and away from the modern conveniences of the kitchen and a pantry, I simply saute morels in a small pan with a bit of water, salt and pepper. This brings out the very unique Morel flavor and makes for an excellent wilderness meal. Saute them in Maple tree sap for a little added sweetness.

Whether in the kitchen or in the woods, Morel mushrooms make for an excellent hunter/gatherer meal. Gathering wild edibles is at the core of my survival philosophy. I’ve heard that in primitive cultures, the gatherers accounted for over 90% of the food and the hunters only 10%. Like any survival skill, hunting wild edibles takes practice. If you don’t have a good Wild Edible Book, go get one. Spring and early summer gives way to some of the best ‘pickin’ of the year. Don’t miss out on your grazing opportunities this season.

Any thoughts? Post a comment below.

Thanks & Remember…it’s not IF, but WHEN,

Creek

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