Spring is finally upon us in Ohio. Flowers are starting to bloom, trees are budding, and the prized and elusive Morel Mushroom is popping up in forests and wetlands across the state. Morel season is short – usually just April and May – but weather plays a deciding role. Ground temperatures must reach 50 degrees and some rain helps the process. Since morels can’t be planted or grown, they must be found – making them quite valuable, as much as $35/lb. fresh. Ohio is host to many edible mushroom species such as Oyster, Deer, and Wine Caps, and is also a perfect area for Ramps in the spring. This means that a hike in the woods for Morels can yield a bountiful basket of other delicacies as well.
“So how do I get started hunting Morels?” There are many resources available to the novice hunter. Many Ohio State Parks permit the hunting of mushrooms but special rules do apply, so contact the office of each park you plan to visit. Lake White State Park in the Appalachian foothills near Waverly is a popular spot. There is a country wide, interactive “Morel Sightings Map” on thegreatmorel.com. There are even guided tours from groups like The Ohio Mushroom Society available. It is important to always be cognizant of where you are and avoid wandering onto private property.
Before heading off on your hunt, be sure to pack a few important items. You will need a pocket knife or small pruning shears for cutting the Morels and a basket or bucket for carrying them. A mesh basket with a handle is best because it not only keeps the mushrooms from bruising but also allows spores to release as you walk along – meaning more mushrooms next year. Take a comfortable walking stick – both for the journey and also to push aside leaves and foliage to look for the Morels. Make certain that you are familiar with what Morels look like before you hunt. The Ohio Mushroom Society website has pictures of both Morels and “False Morels” (which can be dangerous to ingest). Though Morels grow in a variety of different environments, they do favor a few in particular. Dying or dead American Elms, old apple orchards, bottomlands, and hillsides near creeks are among the more popular places to search. If you do find a Morel, stop and carefully look around the entire surrounding area – where there is 1, there will be more. Be sure to make a mental note of where you found them, chances are good that they will be back in the same spot next year.
Once you are home with your basket of morels, you should carefully inspect each one to make sure that it is free of any bugs or parasites and rinse them lightly and dry them off on towels. At this point you can either dry them out until dehydrated so that they will last for months or cook them immediately. Happy Hunting!
Here is a link to Morel mushroom recipe I thought was good! Pasta With Morels, Peas and Parmesan its fairly easy and quite good!
Pasta With Morels, Peas and Parmesan
Salt and ground black pepper
½ cup fresh shelled peas
4 tablespoons butter
¼ pound morels, about 8 medium
8 ounces pasta
1 cup finely grated Parmesan
Bring to a boil 2 pots of water, one small and one large, and salt both. Cook the peas for 1 minute in the small pot; drain and cool quickly by submerging in ice water.
Meanwhile, melt half the butter in a skillet. Cut the morels into 4 pieces each, the long way, and brown them lightly in the butter, seasoning them with salt and pepper.
Cook the pasta until it is nearly done. Just before draining, toss the peas and remaining butter with the morels and turn the heat to medium. Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the cooking water. Toss the pasta with the morels and peas, adding a little water if necessary to make the mixture saucy. Toss with the Parmesan and lots of black pepper and serve immediately.