Known as America’s mushroom, the Morel is wide spread, easy to identify, and tastes great. Morel hunting is a common pastime in the Maupin area, and this time of year is perfect for picking. Whether you harvest morels for yourself or for commercial use, they are one of the most popular types of mushrooms that can be found in Oregon.
Where to Find Morels
Morels can usually be found in and at the edge of forests. You’ll want to seek out aspen, ash, oak, and elm trees, which have symbiotic relationships with the mushroom. You’ll find them peeking up around the base of the tree. At the beginning of spring when the ground first warms, morels are likely to be found on south-facing slopes in fairly open areas where the sun reaches the ground. As the season progresses, you can find them deeper in the forest and on north-facing slopes. Morels tend to like well-drained and sandy soils that you’d find near streams.
Morel Hunting Strategies
When hunting Morels in early spring, you’ll have to keep a sharp eye out. This is because at this stage, most of the mushrooms will be small, making them hard to find. You’ll also need a lot more to make a meal. If you come across one morel, there are sure to be others in the area, so fan out your search in a widening circle to find them all. One sign to look for is a dead tree. Morels can often be found around dead and dying trees that are starting to decay. Old apple orchards are a great place to find morels. Look for signs of decay like bark slipping off the tree, and you’ll likely find morels close by. As you get further into spring, the mushrooms will be a lot bigger and easier to spot.
In order to make sure there are plenty of Morels next season, break the mushrooms in half before bagging them and try to shake out spores around the harvested area.
If you’ll be taking your Morels home for the dinner table, you’ll need to wash them first. Soak them in water for a few hours. This will clean them and get rid of any bugs that might have been living in the hollow crevices. If you sliced them in half while harvesting, they should be relatively easy to clean.
Once finished soaking, give them a quick rinse and then throw them into a hot, buttered pan. Sauté them gently and enjoy. Because they have such great flavor, you don’t need a lot of ingredients to make them taste good. For this reason, most people cook them in butter and that’s it. If you didn’t get very many though, you can stretch the portions by mixing them with scrambled eggs and a bit of tarragon. Some people also batter their morels to add a bit of a crunch.