Morel Mushroom Hunting in West Virginia
Morels are a species of mushroom that grow in the Appalachia region and other places throughout the U.S. and are very valuable and delicious. Many locals revere these mushrooms, as restaurants can pay a pretty penny to add them to a seasonal menu. They have a unique shape and taste. The cap of the mushroom resembles a brain, with many facets and crevices. The whole mushroom is delicate and watery. They taste similar to pork or a light meat. I will not give away specific locations for morels, as that would betray locals that spend years finding an appropriate location and keep it secret for most of their lives. Some facts about morels that will help you find a good location and prepare for your hunt will be discussed.
- Morels often grow by roadsides or near ditches along roads. Others grow deep in the forests near water sources, in the shade by river or stream banks, or by fallen trees or in mulched areas.
- The growing season for Morels depends on where you are located in the U.S. It is normally from spring to early summer, but can change depending on local climate and weather patterns. This year the season will probably begin early in West Virginia, as we’ve gotten a lot of rain and warm weather much earlier than normal.
- Many people and sources say Morels grow around specific types of trees; however, I have found them in a variety of habitats and forests. Don’t discount an area just because you don’t see specific types of trees there. You can always get exercise hiking around anyway, so you won’t lose out entirely.
- There is a species of Morels that is poisonous. Care should be taken to properly identify the mushroom before consuming it. Yellow or gray morels are safe to eat, and delicious. The have the characteristic brainy cap which is entire with the hollow stem. Slicing the mushrooms down the middle will allow you to look at the interior before cooking and eating them. The most apparent difference between the yellow or gray Morels and the False Morel is that the stem of the False Morel is not hollow and not as delicate or light as the edible species.
- I’ve heard locals report that bringing a bag is bad luck when hunting for Morels, and that spur of the moment finds usually become the most profitable. I do not believe this however, and have had much success bringing a plastic grocery bag, or mesh bag along for hikes.
- Do not get frustrated if you don’t find Morels right away. Sometimes it takes a while and a trained eye to locate these mushrooms. Take time to scan the floor and try to train your eye to notice other species of mushroom. Sometimes a Morel will jump right out at you and you’ll begin to see more.
- If you see Morels beginning to degrade, or breakdown, they are still okay to pick. It is fairly simple to trim off any parts that do not look like something you’d want to eat. Keep all of the healthy parts of the mushroom for preparation and cooking.
- Before preparation it is a good idea to soak the Morels in water for a few hours. I like to add a little bit of salt to the water as well. This will flush out any little bugs and grains of dirt that remain in the mushroom after a prior washing.
- If you do not want to eat your Morels right away, you can dry them in a dehydrator for reconstitution later.
- There are many sources that deliver quality Morel recipes; however I’ve found a simple batter and a quick fry to be the most delicious way to consume them.
There are many good reference books and websites out there to assist anyone wanting to pursue Morels. I recommend doing extensive research and getting a good pair of hiking boots before beginning your adventure!