Morel mushrooms are easy to identify and they can be hunted in the wild instead of being bought in a grocery store. Morels have a honeycomb like appearance and rather than have a rounded cap that sets over the stem, morels have a cone shape with pits in it. They can be found in forested areas between late March and early May in most areas of the United States.
The first morels of the season will be small, but they shouldn’t be confused for the smaller morel mushroom that can be mildly toxic. The small morel has a half-cone top and a longer stem. The smaller morels that can be eaten will have a much shorter stem.
They like to grow around dead trees, so old orchards are a great place to hunt for them if you wish to find your own fresh morel mushrooms. As it gets later in the mushroom season, morel mushrooms will get bigger and have a more yellowish color. They taste just as good as the smaller mushrooms and they will be much easier to find.
Cooking with Morels
Morels need to be thoroughly cleaned before they are prepared because bugs often live in the pits of the mushroom. Soak them for a couple of hours in salted water and, if you wish, you can slice them in half lengthwise to ensure they are more thoroughly cleaned. Remove the mushrooms from the water and pat them dry.
Uncooked morels have a rubbery texture, so they will need to be cooked to make them more tender. By simply sautéing them in butter, you can bring out their slightly meaty flavor and they make a good side dish for your meal. Just as you would with other mushrooms, you can also sauté them in olive oil if you prefer it to butter.
Some people like to batter fry morels, which is easy to do. All you need is half cup of flour, cleaned morel mushrooms and about three tablespoons of butter. Heat a skillet on the stove and place the butter into it to melt, but don’t let the butter scorch. Salt and pepper the flour to taste and then roll the morels in it to coat it.
Gently place the coated morels into the skillet and fry them, flipping gently with a wooden spoon until they are brown on all sides. Once the mushrooms are brown, they are ready to be enjoyed.