Morchella, the true morels, is a genus of edible mushrooms closely related to anatomically simpler cup fungi. These distinctive mushrooms appear honeycomblike in that the upper portion is composed of a network of ridges with pits between them. These ascocarps are prized by gourmet cooks, particularly for French cuisine. Commercial value aside, morels are hunted by thousands of people every year simply for their taste and the joy of the hunt. Morels have been called by many local names; some of the more colorful include "merkels" or "miracles," based on a story of how a mountain family was saved from starvation by eating morels ["The Day the Sun Came Out" by Dorothy M. Johnson], and Dryland fish, due to their similarity in taste to fish.
Location of morels
The morel grows abundantly in the two and sometimes three years immediately following a forest fire. However, where fire suppression is practiced, they may grow regularly in small amounts in the same spot year after year. Commercial pickers and buyers in North America will follow forest fires to gather morels. The Finnish name, huhtasieni, refers to huhta, area cleared for agriculture by slash and burn method. These spots may be jealously guarded by mushroom pickers, as the mushrooms are a delicacy and sometimes a cash crop. Although no symbiotic relationships have been proven between morels and certain tree species, experienced morel hunters swear by these relationships. Trees commonly associated with morels include ash, sycamore, tuliptree, dead and dying elms, and old apple trees (remnants of orchards). Morels have not yet been successfully farmed on a large scale, and the commercial morel industry is largely based on harvest of wild mushrooms.
Morels are a feature of many cuisines, including Provençal.
Different types of morel mushrooms
The best known morels are the Yellow Morel or Common Morel (Morchella esculenta); the White Morel (M. deliciosa); and the Black Morel (M. elata). Other common names for morels include Merkel, Sponge Mushroom, and Land Fish. When gathering morels, care must be taken to distinguish them from the poisonous false morel (Gyromitra esculenta and others). Other species of true morels include M. semilibera and M. vulgaris. Discriminating between the various species is complicated by uncertainty regarding which species are truly biologically distinct. Mushroom hunters refer to them by their color (e.g., gray, yellow, black) as the species are very similar in appearance and vary considerably within species and age of individual.
- AmericanMushrooms.com - Morel Mushrooms
- Morel Mushroom Hunting Club
- Pacific Rim Mushrooms
- The Great Morel
- French Morel
- Wild Harvest
- MushroomExpert.com's Morel section
- Michigan Morels information and discussion
- Morel Satisfaction: Stalking the Wild Mushroom from National Public Radio
- Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America: A Field-to-kitchen Guide (1992) ISBN 0-292-72080-0
- Harvesting Morels After Wildfire in Alaska. Wurtz et al. USDA Forest Service Research Note PNW-RN-546, February 2005