Morels: The Misunderstood Mushroom
One of the challenges and fun projects in preparing fresh wild mushrooms is finding them. In the case of Morels: the misunderstood mushroom, this is especially true. Morels (Morchella) have a short growing season in the United States, from as early as April to mid May. This is the prime time to find these delicacies. Morel mushrooms are most often found in moist areas around dead or dying ash, elm, aspen and sycamore trees. Dying apple orchards are another reported location for the mushroom gems. The dedicated hunters of the nutty tasting morel are very secretive about where they find them. Buying fresh morels can be expensive because they are rare and difficult to find. A pound of morel mushrooms can cost up to $30 in season.
According to DNA samples from these mushrooms, morels survived the dinosaurs. It's also important to note that there are several varieties of morel (morchellaceae) mushroom found in the US. There is the grey (morchella deliciosa), the yellow or creamy variety (morchella deliciosa and esculenta), and the black or spike morel (morchella semilibera, angusticeps, elata, conica and deliciosa). Regardless of variety, morels are distinguished by their cone shaped head, spongy honey comb texture and hollow stem. Morels belong to the same fungi family as truffles.
Cleaning morels is the essential first step before cooking them. There are several recommended ways to clean these gems. Regardless of the method, it is important to get all of the dirt and possible insect residents out before cooking. Once cleaned, preparing morels is an essential part of the enjoyment. Many enthusiasts prefer to thinly slice morels and fry them in butter and garlic. Other experts suggest sauteing them as part of a blend of other sauteed spring vegetables. Morels are also delicious in egg based dishes.