What is a Morel Mushroom?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

The morel mushroom is, like other mushrooms, the fruit of a type of fungi, some of which are edible and others of which are poisonous. In addition, there are a variety of mushrooms that are called false morels because they are frequently mistaken for the morel mushroom. These two factors point towards the need for caution and expert advice if one embarks on the hunt for morels in the wild.

Morel mushrooms.
Morel mushrooms.

The edible wild mushrooms include chanterelles, coral fungi, morels, oyster mushrooms, and puffballs. Morel mushrooms, genus Morchella, have a number of nicknames. Some of them are hickory chickens, dryland fish, honeycomb mushrooms, and pinecone mushrooms, all coming from their appearance or taste. Their flavor is variously described as fishy, smoky, earthy, delicate, and nutty.

Puffball mushrooms are edible.
Puffball mushrooms are edible.

Their color varies, too, and is responsible for the common names of the most frequently found types: Yellow Morel, White Morel, and Black Morel. The common morel mushroom, Morchella esculenta, is actually the first two of these: white morel when it is young and has white ridges, and yellow morel when the ridges turn yellowish as the mushroom ages. The smoky morel, Morchella elata, also gets its common name from the color of its ridges, which start of grayish tan and turn black as time passes, therefore leading to it being called Black Morel, but they make better eating when young. Other popular morels include Morchella deliciosa, Morchella semilibera, and Morchela vulgaris.

The morel mushroom can grow to a size of from two inches (5.08 cm) to 12 inches (30.48 cm) tall. They are found in several different habitats, including river bottoms, moist woodlands, old orchards, and some in forests of conifers. They like to grow in spots that have been subject to fire, and are one mushroom species that is not farmed commercially, making them rather expensive. Spring and early summer are the best times for hunting them. When they are old, they can become soft, granular, or wormy, and these should be avoided.

Even edible morels contain some toxins that are destroyed in cooking: this means that you should never be eat a morel mushroom raw. Morels are incorporated into recipes in both fresh and dried form. Sautéing in butter is the most highly recommended way to prepare morel mushrooms, after which they can be eaten as is or used as a garnish for other foods. They can also be incorporated into cream sauces and wine sauces, broiled, and stuffed. Morels are also used to make paté and incorporated into a filling for puff pastry.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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Discussion Comments


Does anybody know where there are morel mushrooms for sale in Catawba? I am really looking for more of a farmer's market type of situation rather than a grocery store, because I like to have all my food as local and organic as I can. If there's anybody in the Catawba area with morel mushrooms for sale, I'd definitely be interested in meeting with you!



I was wondering about tips for if you want to grow your own morel mushrooms. I have consulted various morel mushroom wiki pages, but I would like to get a little more solid information before I start in on my morel mushroom cultivation.

Can anybody tell me some good tips to get me started on morel mushroom growing?


What are the best tips for morel mushroom hunting? I am tired of buying those dried morel mushrooms, so I want to find my own morel mushroom spawn. Can anybody help me out?

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