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Maggots in Morel Mushrooms | Causes & Solutions

Morel Mushrooms are one of the most sought after foods in the world for their incredible taste and meaty texture. However, many consumers have been shocked to see little white worms in them, completely turning them off to the morel mushroom experience. We can't blame you! After all, worms are pretty gross and we've been conditioned to understand that they can make you sick. So, once and for all, what is the deal with worms in Morel Mushrooms?

Need a quick answer?

1. Why Do Fresh Morel Mushrooms Have Maggots?

Fresh Morel Mushrooms often attract flies that lay eggs and hatch as worm-like larvae (maggots). When Morels are improperly stored and exposed to the elements, flies will take every opportunity to lay eggs on your nutrient-rich morels. It's not just common flies though, other bugs can enter and infiltrate a morel too, if proper care is not taken.

House fly zoomed in
The common fly is a Morel Mushroom lover's nemesis!

This can happen to a batch of de-stemmed morels because upon removal of the stem, the hollow cap is exposed for flies to enter. De-stemming is common practice for vendors, so you may find maggots in morels you buy at market. If the morels you purchase do have maggots, its probably because the morels have been sitting out for too long, or they were previously stored in a place where flies were present. One or two maggots is not so uncommon, but a full infestation of larva in the Morel would mean that the mushroom has been completely neglected and should be discarded.

Morel opening with stem off
Notice the opening once stems are cut off

Occasionally, you will see larva or bugs on the outside of the morel when foraging. This is completely normal and natural. Just shake and brush until they are off. Maggots inside of the Morel is where the real problems exist...

2. How to Remove Worms & Maggots From Morels

Before Stem is Cut: For maggots on the outside of a Morel Mushroom that you've just foraged for, you can simply take a brush and clear out the little pits and grooves. Or, shake the Morel to displace large bugs. The inside of the Morel should be clean at this point, because the stem has not yet been removed.

After Stem is Cut: After cutting the stem, there is now an entry point into the morel for flies and bugs. If you find a few small maggots inside your Morel Mushroom that you are ready to eat, you can simply rinse and brush to remove them. Be careful though, if the maggots are burrowing through the mushroom and degrading it, you should avoid that mushroom all together. That means that they have likely been festering in there for a while, excreting bacterial wastes and digesting nutrients in your mushroom.

The best strategy, though, is prevention. Keep your morels in a clean area with low moisture and cool temps. Pick a spot where flies are not active. If you don't have a choice but to leave them outside for a bit, try to mitigate risk by covering the morels with a screen or porous papers. Do not use plastic and suffocate the morels, or else they will get moist and bacteria will flourish. Also, you want spores to spread so the morels can reproduce in your area! Let them breathe, but don't leave them completely exposed.

3. Why Do Dried Morels Have Maggots In Them?

Drying Morels is a common practice for longterm preservation. At home, people often remove the stems and then dry them in bushels outside in the sun. Generally speaking, the heat and drying process in a low moisture environment will deter new flies from laying eggs, and drive out existing bugs, but it is still possible that some remain. The problem is with commercially sold dried morels.

Dried Morels

Some dried morel suppliers will use dehydrators to remove the moisture and prepare them for sale. In doing so, however, there is no way for bugs to escape the insides, pits, or grooves of Morels. Rather, the bugs dehydrate with the Morels and remain stuck inside them. When you buy them and open them up to cook, there they will be! Gross!

I have bought dried morels that had a handful of little white worms in them, which suggests to me that the seller probably took shortcuts on preservation and quality control. As Morels become more commercially available and valuable, I predict that maggots become a less common issue. For now though, do your due diligence.

4. How To Remove Worms From Dried Morels

This process is very simple. Slice them open after they are reconstituted in water to check for worms. If you see any, just rinse them off or brush them off to remove any worms. One or two is fine, but don't attempt to clean and eat dried morels that are infested with large populations of worms or other bugs.

Have You Ever Had Worms In Your Dried Morel Mushrooms?

  • Yes

  • No

5. Can Worms In Morel Make You Sick?

If the structural integrity of a Morel Mushroom is intact (it looks healthy and isn't degraded), then one or two little worms is of absolutely no harm. In fact, a nutritionist may point out that they are a source of extra protein. However, we tend to prefer bacon or ground elk as our protein with Morels, not unexpected maggots that flip our stomachs inside out.

While a worm or two won't hurt you, an infestation of worms can present problems. Worms can eat through a mushroom and degrade its content, and essentially infuse it with their waste. The myriad of issues that come from worms and associated bacteria is too extensive to discuss in here. Just know that if your mushroom is truly infested, you should avoid it at all costs. Look for holes, soft & decomposing areas, and for a large quantity of worms. If any of those are present, do not take the risk.

Maggots, worms, and bugs are nasty, but are an unfortunate part of the natural Morel experience for many. However, through understanding the reasons why they exist and taking proper precautions, you can be sure that your Morels are appetizing and safe to eat.


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