It’s spring, and that means hunting for morel mushrooms in the Northern Michigan’s outdoors. With a perforated bag in hand, foragers flock to their secret spots for a hike through the woods in search of the particularly tempting, decadent morel wild mushroom. If you’re new to the sport of morel hunting, read on to learn tips for locating this treasured food find, and check out a handful of delicious recipes—featuring wine, dairy, and more—that employ this staple of Northern Michigan’s local foods scene.
Foraging for Morels
It takes eagle eyes and sturdy legs to bring home morels. While your hiking in the forest, keep a special eye out underneath poplar and old apple trees—known morel habitat. Also, know that where there’s one morel, there are probably more. If you spot one, stop, crouch down near ground level and scan the horizon 20 feet out in all directions: Getting down near the ground helps you spot them against the backdrop of a lighter colored sky.
For more foraging tips, read this interview with Boyne City’s main morel man, Tony Williams and check out 6 tips for finding morel mushrooms.
How to find and clean morels:
Fungi grow in the woods, but that doesn’t make them dirty, and washing or soaking mushrooms is a major culinary no-no. Instead, brush off any excess dirt with your hands, or at most a damp paper towel. Harvesting with a knife ensures a clean cut through the stem above the ground, leaving the dirt in the woods where it belongs.
It’s rare that you’ll find more morels than you can eat in one meal, but if you hit the jackpot, simply store morels in the fridge wrapped in a damp paper towel. They’ll last for up to one week. You can also dry them in a food dehydrator or in the oven. To dry them in the oven, place them evenly on a cookie sheet and set the oven to 140 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Remove them from the oven once they’re crispy dry. Use dried morels later in soups or sauces—just soak them in water first to reconstitute them.
For morel storage tips, check out, “Morels 201: Tips for How to Store Morels, From Chef and Morel Expert Lucy House.”
Cooking with Morel Mushrooms
Morels are coveted for their deep, rich taste, and the mushrooms add a distinct wholesomeness to many dishes. Yet, beyond the simple butter sauté, it can be tricky to utilize this special ingredient properly: Morels aren’t just any old mushroom, after all. Here are several tried-and-true morel recipes that will have you out scouring for more of these tasty toadstools:
Our Favorite Morel Risotto
The woodsy, smoky fragrance of morels takes center stage in this creamy, Sherry-infused risotto.
Grilled Morel Pizza from The Rowe Inn in Ellsworth
These appetizer-sized pizzas are piled high with the good stuff: morels, caramelized onions, sage and Beemster vlaskaas cheese.
Morel Mac and Cheese from the Jolly Pumpkin in Traverse City
Truffle oil, mascarpone, a little Tabasco, morels and more—it’s a do-not-share kind of dish.
Smoke Pheasant and Morel Galantine
Chef Darren Hawley from Crystal Mountain Resort & Spa whipped up this delicious dish for MyNorth’s Chef Showdown. Watch this MyNorth video, and learn how to make it at home.
Find more morel recipes in MyNorth’s recipe collection, and get your copy of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine!
Contributors: Lissa Edwards, Evan Perry