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Written by: Denise Baker & Henry Garman

Limits of Liability / Disclaimer of Warranty: The authors of this book and the accompanying materials have used their best efforts in preparing this publication. The authors and publisher make no representation or warranties with respect to the accuracy, applicability, fitness, or completeness of the contents. They disclaim any warranties (expressed or implied), merchantability, or fitness for any particular purpose. The authors and publisher shall in no event be held liable for any loss or other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential or other damages. This manual contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited.

Š 2006 – MorelMushroom.Info

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Finding Morels... Your How-to Guide

Attention - Achtung! “There are old mushroom eaters and there are bold mushroom eaters, but there are no old bold mushroom eaters” Don’t eat any mushroom unless you are ABSOLUTELY sure that it is safe! You should never eat any mushroom unless it is positively identified as edible. If you are in any way uncertain about the edibility of a mushroom, don’t try it. If in doubt, throw it out! While morels are easily identified, other species of safe mushrooms have deadly look-alikes. If you are just starting to collect and eat wild mushrooms, don’t rely on books or websites alone for your information. Go hiking with experienced experts, who can show you how to identify the important characteristics of edible and poisonous mushrooms.

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Finding Morels... Your How-to Guide

Table of Contents All about Morels.........................................................................................4 Morel the fruit of the Mushroom.............................................................4 True and False Morels..............................................................................5 Yellow Morels..........................................................................................6 Half Free Morels......................................................................................6 False Morels.............................................................................................7 The Early Morel.......................................................................................8 Some other mushrooms resembling Morels............................................8 Dangers of eating Beafsteak False Morels...............................................9 Review of True and False Morels..........................................................10 West Coast Morels.................................................................................11 Season.......................................................................................................11 Indicator Trees..........................................................................................14 Where to Look..........................................................................................17 How to Look and Harvest.........................................................................19 Equipment.................................................................................................21 Backwoods Etiquette Top Ten List...........................................................24 Transporting and Preparation....................................................................25 Recipes......................................................................................................27 Down Home Cookin’.............................................................................30 Down Home Cookin’ Meets Gourmet...................................................31 Gourmet.................................................................................................34 Stories.......................................................................................................36 Resources..................................................................................................38 Discussion Boards..................................................................................38 Web Sites...............................................................................................38 Fire Burn Morel Resources....................................................................40 Books.....................................................................................................41 Videos....................................................................................................42 Morel Paraphenalia................................................................................42 Endnotes ...............................................................................................43 About the authors - credits . ..................................................................47

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Finding Morels... Your How-to Guide

All about Morels Webster’s New World Dictionary defines MOREL as “any of a genus (Morchella) of edible ascomycete mushrooms resembling a sponge on a stalk.” This sponge on a stick, or “sponge popsicle” as some call it, doesn’t look like an ordinary mushroom— or taste like one. The flavor is rich, earthy, creamy. Although morels consist of mostly water and have very little nutritional value, people are obsessed with this delicacy! More than 50 million people in the world hunt for morels every spring.1 Morel hunting contests, festivals, web discussion boards, web sites, books, t-shirts, walking sticks and even lamps and other décor items abound. It has been said, “There is something almost cruelly tantalizing about morels. No other mushroom in the world, save perhaps the white truffle of northern Italy, offers quite the degree of flavor and fragrance of a fresh morel.”2 There’s even a nickname for people obsessed with morels: Roon. John Ratzloff, author of the romping book The Morel Mushroom says a Roon is defined as “A person possessed by extreme or insatiable desires for morel mushrooms” or “A keeper of the secrets and Order of Roon.”3 Roons are willing to pay upward of $52 per pound for fresh morels or $20 per one ounce for dried. Morels are most prolific in the U.S., though they can also be found in Russia, Australia, China, Romania, England, Pakistan and France.4 The late Larry Lonik, renowned morel expert, says that morels grow in every state, every Canadian province and most countries throughout the world. They thrive best in climates with pronounced seasonal changes. Morels are particularly popular in Europe, and they are commercially harvested in India, Turkey, Morocco, Peru, Nepal and Afghanistan.5

The Morel is the Fruit

The morel is the “fruit”, the reproductive part of the mushroom; the main portion is a fibrous mat that resides underground, called the mycelium. The pitted cap of the morel bears spores, which help ensure reproduction.6 When spores fall to the ground, they germinate to grow the mycelium and hyphae, which are tendrils that reach to the surface for nutrients and that produce the morel. The hyphae extend from the underground nutrient warehouse, or sclerotia, which is about the size of a potato.7 (Don’t worry, that’s about as scientific as we’re going to get!) Recent studies conclude that it takes approximately five years for morels to grow. So Larry says, “. . . if you have good luck in a spot in the year 2000, mark your calendar to return to that spot in 2005.”8

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Finding Morels... Your How-to Guide

True and False Morels There are two types of morels: • True morels and • False morels. And there’s only one type of morel you should ever eat: True morels. But if morels taste so darn good, why can’t you eat False morels? Because you might die! False morels contain a poison called MMH, or monmethylhydrazine, which is a chemical also found in rocket fuel.9 As mycologist (that’s fancy for “mushroom scientist”) Nancy Smith Weber says, “It will not put you in orbit, but it might land you in the hospital.”10 (Or worse, in the cemetery!) Some common names of False morels include Beefsteak Morel, Red Morel, Elephant Ear, Brown Bonnet, Snow Mushroom, Snow Bank Morel, Walnut and Bull Nose.11 More about these monsters later. First let’s get to the good stuff! There are three types of True morels: • Black, • Yellow and • Half Free. All three are hollow with off-white colored stems.

Black Morels

Of the three, Black morels sprout earliest. The Black morel’s common names include Early morels and Grey morels.12 Some people also call them Burn-Over morel, Narrow-Capped morel, Witch’s Cap or Johnny Jump-Up.13 (We won’t bore you with the scientific names!) Black morels can be gray when they first sprout, and they grow to be from one-half inch to more than one foot tall.14 Black morels cause allergic reactions more often than the other two types, including an upset stomach and loss of muscle coordination, which is exacerbated by consuming alcohol; first-time eaters should take only a few bites and avoid alcohol.15

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Finding Morels... Your How-to Guide

Yellow Morels

Yellow morels are also called White morels, Sponge mushroom, Gray morels or Brain mushrooms. They are also sometimes called Honeycombs, Sponges or Domes.16 They can range from whitish to yellow to gray to honey brown. Like Black morels, they can also grow to be a foot tall.17 They sprout last of the three types. They are probably most prized of the three for their flavor and texture. Yellow morels can grow to be huge, with a very thick stem; some experts classify them separately and call them Giant morels, Big Foots or Thick Footed morels.18 However, “. . . some mycologists have concluded that this fungus is simply a larger variety of the common morel.”19

Half Free Morels

Half Free morels are visually distinct from Black and Yellow morels in that their heads are quite small. Also, caps of Blacks and Yellows are attached to the stem at their bottom, whereas the Half Free cap is attached at about the middle.20 In other words, if you slice one in half lengthwise, you’ll see that the attachment of the cap to the stem leaves about half of the cap hanging, or “half free.”21 Half Free morels are also called Peckerheads or Cows Heads.22 Half Free mushrooms sprout after the Blacks appear and continue into Yellow season.

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Finding Morels... Your How-to Guide

False morels There are four types of False morels that sprout in spring and are thus likely to be confused with the True Yellow, Black and Half Free morels.

Brown Bonnet

Beefsteak morel

The Brown Bonnet is also called Beefsteak morel or Red morel

Beefsteak morel, also called Red morel (or Brains, 23

Globs or Redheads)

Elephant Ear

Snow Mushroom

The Snow Mushroom is also called Snowbank False Morel; Bull Nose, Walnut

• Elephant Ear, also called Brown False morel or Gabled False morel

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Snow Mushroom False morel watercolor © 2000-2004 by Michael Kuo, Kuo, M. (2002, December). Types of False morels. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.bluewillowpages.com/mushroomexpert/morels/false.html

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Finding Morels... Your How-to Guide

The Early Morel – Skirt Cap or Wrinkled Thimble Morel

There’s one more type of False morel that sprouts in spring that looks very similar to a Half Free morel, though it is not flat-out poisonous as the four listed above are. It’s commonly called a Skirt Cap morel. Unlike the Half-Free, the cap hangs over the stem like a cap or skirt; the stem extends all the way to the top of the cap, and it is filled with a cotton-like substance.25 It is known to inflict upset stomach and loss of coordination. Nancy reports that her parents were thus affected after eating this type of morel. “Mother first walked into a wall instead of through a doorway and then could cap a bottle of vinegar only with great difficulty. Dad had difficulty typing and lost at handball to a man he usually beat.”26 Aside from Skirt Cap morels, False morels have wrinkled, irregular heads that resemble a brain or saddle. They differ from True morels in three distinct ways: 1. The cap surface has lobes, folds, flaps or wrinkles--not pits and ridges like a True morel; their caps bulge outward instead of being pitted inward 2. The bottom edge of the cap hangs completely free from the stem, like a skirt; on True morels, the bottom edge of the cap is attached to the stem27 3. If you cut them in half lengthwise, they exhibit a solid or cottony mass; True morels are completely hollow28

Some other mushrooms with a resemblance to Morels Elfen Saddles

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Stink Horns

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Finding Morels... Your How-to Guide

Dangers of Eating Beefsteak False Morels You may have heard people claim that they eat Beefsteak False morels with no side effects. That’s because the poisonous chemical MMH (also found in rocket fuel) may occur in different concentrations in different False morels, its presence may vary due to geographical location, its affect may vary amongst individuals, and its toxicity may be cumulative.29 Dr. Michael Kuo is an English teacher and amateur mycologist in Illinios who developed the web site www.MushroomExpert.Com. He says this raises “. . .the possibility of eating False morels safely for years and then, one day, croaking after one bite.”30 In May 2002 an 8-year-old girl from Cheboygan, Michigan, enjoyed some Beefsteak mushrooms that some friends had given her family. After eating them, her face turned yellow and she became extremely nauseated. Her mother rushed her to the doctor, who sent her to the emergency room. She became very combative, and doctors detected high levels of ammonia in her brain, which forced her liver to begin to shut down. They were concerned that it would also induce failure of other vital bodily functions, such as breathing. They called in a specialist, who diagnosed liver failure. She had to be flown to a pediatric intensive care unit in Ann Arbor, where doctors administered a diuretic that caused the stomach to absorb the poison and flush it through her system; in the meantime, they prepped her for a liver transplant. Miraculously, the medication helped the girl undergo a complete turnaround.31 As Michael says, “. . .no person in his or her right mind should knowingly eat a False morel.”32 You have been forewarned!

Here are four easy ways to avoid a near-death mushroom eating experience: 1) When in doubt, throw it out! If you’re not 110 percent absolutely, definitely, undeniably sure that’s it’s a morel, chuck that sucker! It’s easier to throw out a mushroom than to die from eating it. 2) If it ain’t hollow, don’t swallow! If you slice a True morel in half lengthwise, it is hollow. If you slice a False morel in half, it contains flesh or a cotton-like substance (and maybe a few air pockets.) 3) If it’s wavy, don’t make it gravy! False morel caps are usually wavy--not pitted, like True morels. 4) If it’s reddish, you could be dead-ish! False morels are often reddish brown.33

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Finding Morels... Your How-to Guide

REVIEW True Morels

False Morels

Yellow and Black Morels

Verpas

The bottom edge of the cap hangs completely free from the stem, like a skirt.

On True morels, the bottom edge of the cap is attached to the stem.

Beefsteak, Brown Bonnet, Brain-like

Half Free Morels

On half-free morels, the cap is attached at about the middle of the stalk.

True morels are completely hollow.

The cap surface has lobes, folds, flaps or wrinkles--not pits and ridges like a True morel; their caps bulge outward instead of being pitted inward. If you cut them in half lengthwise, they exhibit a solid or cottony mass.

Four Kinds of Morel-Style Mushrooms Only the Ones on the Left Should be Eaten

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Finding Morels... Your How-to Guide

West Coast Morels Morels on the West Coast of the U.S., including California, Oregon and Washington, look slightly different than those found in the Midwestern U.S. However, they are genetically related to the three True morels found in the Midwest, though one black morel may be genetically separate.34 The categories are Landscaping, Burn Site, Orchard and Naturals. Landscaping morels are just that: they appear in residential landscaping. They are usually yellow. They do not appear after the first year, but they can be found almost year-round, particularly in higher elevations.35 Burn site morels are usually black. They are the most commonly hunted by West Coast residents.36 As in other areas of the U.S., old West Coast apple orchards produce yellow morels.37 Naturals are very rare in comparison to naturally growing morels in other areas of the U.S. They are so rare that it’s not worth one’s time to even look for them. However, in the Sierra Nevada and the Cascades, black morels sprout in large numbers in Douglas Fir forests.38

Season Spring is the season for hunting morels. Of course, spring is relative depending on where you live. In the U.S., morel mushroom season begins first in California and the Pacific Northwest, then southern states, then concentrates roughly in the Midwest, stretching to a few eastern states.39 This is based on 2004 maps from Michael’s web site that reflect morel discussion board postings. Based on the 2004 maps, morels sprout from January to early June, with March 23 to May 3 being the most dense.40 Here’s a map of April 20 to 27, 2004, which is the most dense week for that year:

Kuo, M., Zordani, R. & Bartlett, R. (2004). Reported morel distribution & progress, 2004. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www. mushroomexpert.com/morels/maps/progress_maps.html

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Please note, however, that Michael’s maps are based only on postings to his morel discussion board and four other discussion boards: morelmushroomhunting. com, morelmania.com, michiganmorels.com and morels.com. The maps are not intended to be scientific; in other words, they’re based on info provided by individuals who hunt morels and chat on Internet discussion boards! There are likely hoards of mushroom


Finding Morels