Morels are one of the most flavorful of all mushrooms, and while they can be purchased, the price is often quite high. However, morels grow wild in many places in the world, and over much of the US and Canada. The question might then be, how do you find and pick morel mushrooms?
To find morels, the first step is to look for them during the right time of year. Morels can be found in many places from spring until fall, however the greatest numbers are found when the ground has begun to warm up, the snow has receded, but the ground under the surface is still slightly moist.
For most places where morels can be found, this is generally between May and June, though there can be some variation.
The next thing to know is what locations they will likely be growing in. Wild morels grow primarily in uncontaminated soil where the air is fresh, and most often in forests. While they can be found in deciduous forests, such as those of maple or oak, they grow in greatest profusion in coniferous forests of pine and fir. For this discussion, we'll concentrate on coniferous forests.
Now we have the when and where, so we need to concentrate on the how.
When a spoor from a morel begins to grow, it sends out hundreds of extremely fine rootlets just below the surface. These rootlets can cover many square feet or even yards. The fruiting body is the part we recognize as the morel.
Because the rootlets are just below the surface, too much heat, sunshine, or dryness can kill them. This helps to limit the area we were looking in. While an occasional morel may be found in the open, usually they grow under some shelter, such as next to or under logs, and at the base of trees and saplings.
Note: It is very helpful if you know what a morel looks like, and though there isn't any other mushroom that really looks like a morel, if you aren't certain that the mushroom you find is a morel, get confirmation before consuming the mushroom.
Morels grow rapidly from the ground, so the hunt begins by looking around the bases of trees and near logs for morels that are above the surface. The idea is to look carefully for anything that looks out of the ordinary. But there is a trick to this, because at twenty feet away, a pinecone that is partly buried in the soil at the base may look similar to a morel at the same distance. Also, white, brown, and black morels all grow in areas where their coloration helps to hide them from detection. So check anything that looks out of the ordinary.
This means that it is a very good idea to start out with a back and forth search pattern, moving slowly as you search. If you are in an area where morels grow, it usually won't take long before you find one.
Properly picking morels is also important. To pick them, put your hand over the head of the mushroom and using your thumb and forefinger, clip the mushroom just were it meets the stem, using a slight twisting motion. This separates the head from the stem and leaves the still living rootlets behind.
Besides knowing when, where, and how to find morels, there really is no trick to it except practice. Each time you find morels, your knowledge of how to do it and what to look for will increase. With a little time, you can be teaching someone else how to find and pick morels.