Gathering Morels

Early this year I made three food goals, the third of which was to forage for food in the city. I haven’t found a way to fulfill this goal yet, but others certainly have. Guest blogger Roman Muntener and his family have a foraged crop that must be the envy of every mushroom lover. (Disclaimer: consult a good field guide or a professional picker to identify edible mushrooms.) –SJ, M+P

Gathering Morels
by Roman Muntener

The bounty of the first pick.

The time couldn’t be better to be hunting delicious morels. This year seems to be a year for bumper crops; the relatively wet spring combined with the recent warm weather and sunshine makes for ideal growing conditions for morels and it looks promising for quite a while yet. The little fungus can be quite finicky. They like their environment just so—too dry, too wet, too early, or too late and they just won’t show.

We went back for more (again and again).

In these climes, particularly in Northern BC, morels are among the first of a wide palette of mushrooms to appear. As a rule of thumb, morel season starts when dandelions, bears, and mosquitoes are out. Depending on where you are on the North American continent and the elevation, this starts around April, lasting through May and into June.

For those who don’t know where to start, by far the easiest way to find morels is to go to one of last year’s forest burn sites where they grow in abundance. That’s where you find the professional pickers setting up camp and processing the shrooms right then and there. Aside from burn sites, morels are found in light aspen stands with sandy or loose soil. They don’t like hard clay or dense, coniferous forests.

False morel, do not eat!

True morels are quite easy to identify by their dark brown to light brown wrinkled cap. When cut lengthwise, the true morel is completely hollow, with the hollow stem attached to the bottom edge of the hollow cap.

Stay away from false morels that are poisonous (although some people claim that they can prepare and eat them.) In contrast to the true morel, the cap of the false morel can be filled with twisted stem and does not have clearly defined growth of the cap into the stem.

Cross section of the false morel.

Cross section of the true morel.

Morels can easily be dried and should not be eaten raw. Cooked, however, they are absolutely delicious, particularly if dried morel is used in the recipe. The drying seems to intensify the flavour!

Roman and Monika Muntener live in Prince George, BC. They are founding members of the Prince George Farmers’ Market and operate the Red Rooster Artisan Bakery. Roman Muntener can be found on Facebook.

All images by Roman Muntener.

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