Morels – springtime mushroom hunting

Early spring is a time of regrowth, as forageable plants start to grow after their long slumber. Still months away from peak mushroom hunting, the humble morel mushroom likes to make its appearance in the early spring, just as overnight temperatures break the freezing mark. They tend to coincide with the fiddlehead picking time so double up on your foraging.

Morels enjoy areas where the ground can heat up quickly – unimpeded by thick underbrush and grass. Hardwood stands, before the leaves start shading are preferred locations. In this area, Poplar and Birch stands are the best place to start.

They also like disturbed areas – recent cutting activity and especially recent forest fire burn areas. Look for south facing ridges and hills first; they heat up faster, and the morels will come up there first.

The morels in NW Ontario tend to have dark brown tops and are two to four inches tall, and in a spring forest where everything is brown, they are masters of camouflage. Its best to find a suitable area and get down at ground level, the contrast of the morels poking up will help you find them.

Identifying morels is relatively easy as there aren’t many other mushrooms out there in early spring, although the poisonous False Morel is present at the same time, it DOES NOT have a hollow stem/inside like a true morel.

Morel mushroom identification:

  • Brown/Dark Brown triangular cap – unique, regular appearance (see pictures)
  • Stem – white/beige to brown – hollow inside
  • Two to Four inches tall
  • Cap is attached directly to stem
  • Grows in open areas/ deciduous forest floor
  • Grows mid-May to early/mid-June depending on ground conditions and temperature.
  • Appear when overnight temperatures start reaching above zero C.

The POISONOUS false morel shown below looks similar, although more “blobby” and when you cut it in half, its not hollow.

So for a false morel look for:

  • Irregular, blobby cap
  • Cap is freely hangs off the stem
  • The inside is not hollow, will have fibers or chunks of tissue

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