If you love cooking with items straight out of nature, then you’ve likely heard of morel mushrooms. They’re found in many different areas and can bring a unique flavor to a large variety of dishes. But what are morel mushrooms, and what separates them from the many other variations of mushrooms out in existence? Today, we’ll tell you more about this earthy treat and the details you need to know before incorporating them into your next dish.
What are Morel Mushrooms?
There are meaty mushrooms, and there are those with a slimy texture. Morel mushrooms are the former. They’re a wild mushroom that provides an earthy flavor that can go well with many recipes. These are not mushrooms that you’ll typically find in the store. Instead, most times, you’ll need to forage in the woods to find them.
That’s part of the reason why they’re so desirable by chefs around the world. It’s not so easy to just find a huge group of these in one area in the forest. Instead, you would need to find where they grow and keep looking based on how many you need. The fact that they’re hard to find is also why they’re more expensive than many other mushrooms. Don’t be surprised to see a pound of them go for over $20. In addition to being somewhat hard to find, they also have a short growing season, and they don’t always transport well from the forest to the store.
You can immediately tell that you’re looking at a morel mushroom because it has that unique honeycomb exterior. However, the mushrooms can vary greatly when it comes to their size and color. Some are longer and rounder, while some are more squat. You’ll find those that are gray and others that are lighter brown.
Before you pick just any morel-like mushroom, beware that there are some imposters that look somewhat like morel mushrooms. However, they are poisonous. You can tell them apart because they have a cap that hangs more to the side, and they’re not hollow on the inside. Real morels are hollow.
Where to Find Morel Mushrooms
For the best chance of finding morel mushrooms, you first need to live in North America, China, Turkey, the Himalayas, India, or Pakistan, where they are most common. They won’t grow everywhere, but look around your backyard or local park and see what you find. In most cases, morels grow on the edges of the wooded areas and like to hang around ash, oak, elm, and aspen trees. Morel mushrooms also tend to grow near dead trees and areas that have been disturbed, such as being in the location of a recent forest fire.
As far as the weather, look for the mushrooms during cooler, moist conditions. They live best when the temperature at night doesn’t dip below 50 degrees. Try looking later in the year, after April, when the morel mushrooms will be at their ideal size. They’ll be easier to find, and they’ll taste better in your dishes.
Once you find the mushrooms you want, bring them home and store them in the refrigerator. Don’t put them in a bag because they need some air. If they’re dirty, leave them like that. If you wash them too soon before cooking with them, or they can rot. When you wash them, do it under cold water. Then, slice them in half and soak them in salt water for five minutes. The reason is so you can get rid of the tiny bugs that sometimes call the mushrooms home.
With that said, you can make morel mushrooms last longer by first drying them out in the sunlight and occasionally rotating them. At that point, you can store them in an airtight container, and they can last about six months. When you’re ready to cook with them, add a bit of water, and they’ll get plump and ready to use.
Best Way to Cook with Morel Mushrooms
When you’re ready to start cooking, clean them off and dry them before they soak up too much water. Then, you need to cook the mushrooms. Do not eat them raw, or they can cause stomach cramps. The easiest way to cook morel mushrooms is to saute them with butter. Don’t be afraid to eat as many morel mushrooms as you want because they can be quite healthy. They’re loaded with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, niacin, iron, potassium, calcium, and vitamins E and B6, among others.
How Morel Mushrooms Compare to Other Mushrooms
When cooked, morel mushrooms provide an earthy and meaty taste, and its texture lends itself well to many different meats and sauces. This is a bit different from a porcini mushroom, which has a deeper flavor that goes well with nuts. Chanterelles also have that nuttier flavor that’s a bit more unique. You may also be familiar with shitake mushrooms, which have a smooth but milder flavor.
Morels are often considered “truffles of the north” because they are both highly sought-after varieties, and they’re both edible ascomycetes. However, they are pretty different. For instance, truffles grow more underground than morels do.
Morel Mushroom Recipes
There are countless different ways to cook and prepare morel mushrooms. Here are a few of our favorites:
Many people believe that everything tastes better fried, and this recipe proves it. Simply create a good breading or batter and coat the mushrooms very well. Once prepared, cook them at between 325-350 degrees.
Morel Mushroom Pasta
To prepare this dish, you first need to rehydrate potentially dry mushrooms by putting them in warm water and letting them sit for 20-30 minutes. You can then make pasta the way you like it and add your desired sauce.
Lasagna with Asparagus and Morel Mushrooms
If you’re making a meal for the family and you’re looking for something healthy, consider this lasagna recipe. Use no-boil noodles, fresh morels, and the rest of the ingredients, and follow the recipe. You’ll need about ¼ pound of morels for this one. This is a vegetarian dish, but the morel mushrooms give it a meaty feel.
Mushrooms of many varieties make for a great fit in salads, and morels are no exception. This salad uses a number of tasty ingredients, including mushrooms, asparagus tips, barley, lettuce, and vegetable broth, among others. This salad does take a bit more prep time than others, but after about 45 minutes, you’ll have a meal that you’ll go back to time after time.
Roasted Chicken with Bacon & Morels
This incredible chicken recipe goes great with polenta or mashed potatoes. The morels provide a great earthiness in addition to the tasty applewood smoked bacon and the inclusion of duck fat. Add lemon juice, dijon mustard, heavy cream, chicken stock, and a variety of other great ingredients, and you have a dinner the whole family will enjoy.
Wild Ramp and Morel Mushroom Pie
You can continue to use those tasty morel mushrooms while you’re making dessert with this incredible mushroom pie. Prepare the mushrooms for this dish by rinsing them in cold water to remove the dirt. Then, slice them lengthwise. Finally, place them in a bowl with salted water and refrigerate overnight. The rest of the filling is a combination of ramps, butter, heavy cream, flour, herbs, and other ingredients.
These can be considered a dessert or an appetizer, but either way, they’re delicious. With prep, chill, and bake time, you’ll be done in about two hours, and it’s well worth the work. The handful of ingredients includes mushrooms, onions, sour cream, margarine, and a handful of seasonings. Follow the recipe, and you’ll be eating amazing tarts before you know it.
This has been everything you need to know about morel mushrooms. They’re a tasty treat that you can find almost anywhere, and you can enjoy them any way you want. Consider some of these ideas and recipes for the next time you’re looking for an earthy treat.
Hungry for more mushroom recipes? Try this tasty recipe that we're sure you're going to love!Print
- 1 pound fresh mushrooms, stems removed
- 1 (12 ounce) package chicken-flavor stuffing mix
- 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
- 10 3/4 fluid ounces milk
- Preheat oven to 350°F. (175°C). Grease one 9×13 inch baking dish.
- Prepare stuffing according to package directions.
- Fill mushrooms with stuffing and layer in baking dish.
- Dilute can of soup with one can of milk. Pour over the mushrooms, cover and bake for 25 minutes.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Sergey Hramov/Shutterstock.com.