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Buying & Eating Morel Mushrooms: Beginner's Guide

Morels are some of the most sought after mushrooms in the world for their incredible taste and elusive nature. However, they are very difficult to get your hands on and have some characteristics that make them a bit tricky to deal with. If you don't know how to preserve them or use them, you'll end up wasting money and a beautiful mushroom that many consider a biological miracle. In this guide, we'll explain every aspect of buying, preserving, and eating Morel mushrooms.


Quick Answers:


Morel cover photo



SECTION 1: INTRODUCTION TO THE MOREL MUSHROOM



1. What is a Morel Mushroom?


The Morel Mushroom, one of the most sought after edibles, is a mushroom that has eluded scientific understanding for a very long time. This mushroom, naturally growing in much of the Northern Hemisphere during spring months, is typically black or yellow and can be seen fruiting at the edge of tree-bases (if you are lucky).The cap of this mushroom is very wrinkly and it takes the shape of a Christmas Tree with a more rounded top, fruiting as one of the most unique looking mushrooms you can find.


If nothing else, all you need to know is that the Morel Mushroom is a wrinkly, tasty mushroom that has captivated foragers and consumers for centuries. With so many biological factors impacting it, not even scientists know all of the answers about its biology. What we do know though, is that a true Morel Mushroom is a fantastic addition to any meal, and is extremely rewarding to use.


Healthy Morel Specimen

2. What Types Of Morels Are There?


In the genus Morchella, there are a good deal of morel species. The ones you may encounter, however, are Black Morel, Grey Morel, Yellow Morel, Half-Free Morel, and Big Foot Morel. Don't be fooled though, gray morels are just juvenile black / yellows, while big-foot morels are just large yellows! While you can forage for many of those, you won't find them all commercially available. There are two main types of Morels you'll see commercially available. The first one, and most commonly eaten, is the black morel. The other is called is the yellow morel, although it is actually more of a brown / tan color. Both the yellow and black morel are edible and have a similar flavor profile, in my opinion.


On the Morel Mushroom Sightings Map, you can see which of these have been found in your area!


Yellow and black morel mushrooms


3. Are Morel Mushrooms Safe To Eat?


Yes. True Morel mushrooms are safe to eat when thoroughly cooked. However, due to the difficult means of acquiring them, you must be extremely careful that you are getting true morels and not a lookalike. There are a few species of mushrooms that look almost identical to the Morel, that can be very harmful to your health. We'll give you more details on what to look for later in this article.



4. What do Morel Mushrooms Taste Like?


Morel Mushrooms have a meaty, earthy taste that many have compared to Sirloin steak. However, the beauty of the Morel is in the texture. Unlike the chewy, somewhat slimy of typical store-bought mushrooms, Morel mushrooms have a dense, meaty texture. This texture is a massive reason for the popularity of this mushroom, and makes it worth a try for those who have not yet experienced it.



Inside of a morel



SECTION 2: BUYING & SOURCING MOREL MUSHROOMS



1. How Much Do Morel Mushrooms Cost?


Morel Mushrooms range in their price, but you can typically find them for about $40-$80 per pound. Unlike Shiitakes or Portabella, though, Morel Mushrooms are often sold by locals or people that forage for them themselves. For that reason, keep in mind that you may see a price wildly different than the number we've listed. If you are getting charged more than that, ask the vendor why they are being sold above market value!


Fresh Morels are actually your cheapest option, as dried morels go for closer to $170 per pound!


2. Why Are Morels So Expensive?


Morels are extremely difficult to cultivate, limiting their supply and driving up price. Unlike White Button Mushrooms, Morels are very difficult to grow in a commercial operation or lab setting, because they are ecologically complex. Even the most astute mushroom growers have not been able to produce profitable yields of this species. As a result, the majority of them are sourced by foraging, which makes them more valuable and expensive.


3. Where to Buy Morel Mushrooms Online


Finding high quality, fresh morel mushrooms con the web can be a challenge. So, we've prepared this guide on the top 5 ways to buy fresh morels online!


While we'd suggest buying fresh Morels from only a select few vendors, dried Morels are abundantly available online. This dried morel product is our favorite for its taste, and is your surest bet in finding assured quality.



dried morels


As more morel products and online options present themselves, we'll list them here!


4. Where to Buy Morel Mushrooms In Person


Morel Mushrooms are primarily foraged, not grown. As a result, you will NOT find Morels in your local grocery stores. There, you will find Shiitake, Portabella, Oyster, and White Button mushrooms. If not stores, then where? Here are 4 ways you can buy Morels in person.

  1. Local farm stands (In spring seasons)

  2. Farm-to-table markets (In spring seasons)

  3. Local connections (find a friend who forages!)

  4. Fairs, festivals, mushroom trade events

Tip: When buying in person, you can typically haggle down the price. By understanding size, health, and general quality of morels, you can use different talking points to convince the seller that they are overcharging. We'll get into those quality details in a bit.



morel food stand


5. Can You Forage for Morel Mushrooms?


Yes, you can forage for Morel mushrooms in much of the northern hemisphere during spring months. Foraging for Morels can be tricky, time consuming, dangerous, and extremely rewarding. We won't explain how to forage them from top to bottom, but for the sake of this article, we can tall you that this is the most cost-effective and enjoyable way to source morels! For those who are interested in trying, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:


  • True morels are typically hollow inside. False Morel species can make you incredibly sick, and are sometimes detectable by not having the hollow characteristic. Be incredibly careful while identifying.

  • Look near the outskirts at the base of trees. This is where you're most likely to find morels.

  • Do not waste your time looking in summer, fall, or winter.

  • Morels often, and curiously, grow in the aftermath of burn sites, whether it be forest fire or other. There is still research going on to confirm the validity of that statement, however.

Interested in foraging? Refer to our Morel Mushroom Map to see what people have found in your area!



SECTION 3: QUALITY & PRESERVATION



1. How To Pick Good Quality Morels: What should they look like when you are buying?


When buying Morel mushrooms, you'll need to know how to determine quality. Why? If you get a poor quality Morel, it can make you very sick. Additionally, if you know how to gage a quality morel, you'll have leverage when haggling prices with vendors. So, what are the signs of a healthy, high quality morel?


  1. Mushroom has defined rigid wrinkles: Avoid Morels with smoother caps

  2. Mushroom is hollow: Non-hollow Morels are not true morels

  3. Stem is intact, and firm

  4. Cap is proportionally large compared to stem. Smaller caps mean less substance to eat!

  5. Mushroom is clean, and smells earthy


morel look and feel


2. How to Tell if A Morel Mushroom Has Gone Bad?


The worst thing that could happen is paying for Morels, opening the bag, and getting something that is old, rotten or bug infested. If that happens, you need to get your money back! However, you must first know what to look for to determine that it is bad. These are 7 signs of a rotten Morel Mushroom:


  1. Mold

  2. Slimy texture on the cap

  3. Spots & obvious bruising

  4. Foul odor that smells like rotting flesh

  5. Unappetizing taste, gritty in texture

  6. Non-hollow insides

  7. Wavy wrinkles instead of sharp, pitted wrinkles


3. Once Bought, What is the Best Way To Preserve Morel Mushrooms?


Poor preservation can lead to maggots, which you can learn more about here. However, these methods should suffice in keeping a fresh morel clean and healthy


If you plan on eating them right away, we recommend keeping them in their original packaging, in the fridge. Once you break the seal of the packaging, you allow contaminants like bacteria and molds to make contact through moisture. For prolonged preservation, your best best is to dry them, freeze dry them, or freeze them raw / cooked.


You can freeze Morel Mushrooms to extend shelf life. However, don't apply this practice to all mushrooms, as species like Shiitake cannot handle being frozen. Also, we'd advise against freezing reconstituted morels. Freezing them will turn them mushy once thawed.




4. How Long Will Fresh Morel Mushrooms Last In The Fridge?


Like with most mushrooms, decomposition happens rather quickly once exposed to bacteria and molds. If you get your hands on some Morels, keep in mind that you have about 4-6 days before they go bad, depending on a myriad of factors like the temperature of your fridge. Do whatever you can to keep them dry and cool. Warm, high moisture preservation will lead to unintended infestations of bacteria or molds.


Even with proper storage, its possible that your mushrooms get contaminated. No matter what, check the quality of the mushrooms before eating them, even if you have followed all of our instructions properly.



SECTION 4: USING & COOKING MOREL MUSHROOMS



1. How Much Morel Mushroom Should I use?


Morel Mushrooms are less understood than Shiitakes or Black Winter Truffle, for example, and so the answer on this is not 100% clear. However, from personal experience, I've found that I can eat up to 10 of these mushrooms in one serving, if the mushrooms are perfectly healthy. Our advice would be to simply practice moderation, and don't overdo it. Too much of a good thing can make you sick and ruin the purity of the experience!



2. How to Clean Morel Mushrooms


You need to clean your morel mushrooms before eating them. In order to remove any dirt, bugs, or soot, you can brush the pits and grooves with a gentle brush. Don't go using steel wool and destroy the surface of the mushroom in the process. Then, we like to soak the mushrooms for a few minutes and then dry them with a paper towel. After that, you are good to go! A little bit of organic matter left on the morel isn't a huge deal, as thoroughly cooking them will kill any remaining bacteria.


Note: Always clean Morels just before use to avoid recontamination.


3. Can I eat Morel Mushrooms Raw?


No, you should never eat Morel Mushrooms raw. Though they won't kill you, raw consumption can result in a variety of illnesses. You should always cook Morels until they are cooked all the way though, and look golden brown. Be careful though, as all mushrooms have different requirements. For morels, you MUST cook them through.


4. What Does Morel Mushroom Go Well With?


Here are some of the most popular culinary uses of Morel Mushrooms.

  1. Stuffing them with meats

  2. Grilling them

  3. Incorporating them into Soups

  4. Frying them

  5. Using them in stirfry

  6. Drying them

For specific recipes, check out our Morel Mushroom Recipes page!


morel mushroom and tomato dish


Congratulations, you have finished the complete guide to buying and eating Morel Mushrooms! Now, it’s time to get your hands on some.

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