The common morel or morchella esculenta, is a type of mushroom that is grown in various areas around the world. This mushroom thrives in areas of the upper U.S. in particular the great lakes region. The morel is renowned for its gourmet qualities and distinct smooth taste. Many people flock to the woods each spring in order to find this mysterious mushroom. It is important to learn how to identify the morel mushroom because it has false imposters that can be dangerous if ingested.
Morel mushrooms come in three distinct varieties; grey, black and yellow. The yellow are the most common that are found in the U.S. although some people only end up with an abundance of one particular variety. One of the easiest ways to identify a true morel is by its color. The grey variety varies between a pale greyish white color to a dark greyish black. The black variety is similar to a grey except it tends to have a darker top and almost looks like it is covered in top soil. Yellow are some of the largest of the morel varieties. This type almost has a golden hue and some can be up to 10 or 12 inches tall.
While many people anxiously await the spring months of early April through late may to venture out on their mushroom hunt, having a general idea of where to go is essential in a good mushroom find. While there is no guarantee you will find a morel in any particular location, there are some locales where they tend to be more populated in. Starting in the forest, identify trees the mushroom often grows under, such as the poplar, elm, ash, apple and pine. Many morels can be found at the base of these trees. Look under leaves and fallen timber. Morels like cool, moist areas. Check out the perimeter of river beds where there is plenty of rotting tree stumps and shade. Some morels have also been found growing out of green moss beds. Bring a long stick with you to lift lightweight forest items as you search.
Identifying a morel by its shape is important when differentiating between a true and false morel. Note that a true morel often has a cream colored stalk that is attached to the head of the mushroom. There should be no separation between the cap and the stalk. Another less found variety is the spike which can be difficult for amateurs to identify. It contains an extra long stem with a small head. A false morel will likely have a distinct separation between the cap and the stalk.
Another way to positively identify a morel is to slice it in half. If you are unsure, be careful when slicing as the contents of a poisonous mushroom can cause adverse reactions if inhaled or digested. A true morel will have a hollow center and is often white or cream colored. A false morel is often meaty and thick all the way through--these should be avoided.
The texture of the morel is important with identification. A morel has a series of divots and inverted curves and crevices on its upper half that are easily visible to the naked eye. These crevices are often the same color of the remaining head of the mushroom--there is generally no visible contrasting color differences. A false morel will have a cap or top half that is distinctly different in color and generally a red or dark brown color. Its crevices are often not smooth and sometimes brittle when touched.