The morel index

Morels should never be eaten raw as they contain small amounts of toxins that are removed by cooking. Even cooked morels can cause mild intoxication when consumed with alcohol.

May 18, 2012 | | Back Issues

Morel

n. an edible fungus having a brown oval or pointed fruiting body with an irregular honeycombed surface
Oxford English Dictionary


species

A member of the genus Morchella. Some authors say there may be as many as 50 species of morels worldwide, though others argue for as few as three. The various species are very similar in appearance, and vary in colour and size, according to the age of the morel.

where
Morels are widespread across North America, Europe and other temperate parts of the world, including China, India and Turkey.

when
Unlike other wild mushrooms, morels appear in spring. In eastern Canada, they come up in early May or when daytime highs reach the mid-teens and nighttime lows are around 5°C. They prefer warm, moist weather.

miraculous
In many parts of the Appalachians, morels are called “merkels” or “miracles” because of a story about a mountain family that was saved from starvation by eating them.

edible
Prized by gourmet cooks for their nutty, slightly smoky flavour, morels should never be eaten raw as they contain small amounts of toxins that are removed by cooking. Even cooked morels can cause mild intoxication when consumed with alcohol.

false
Morels are sometimes mistaken for poisonous false morels. These are distinguished by their cap which is wrinkled rather than honeycombed.

also known as
Morels are sometimes called “dryland fish,” (because when sliced, their outline resembles a fish), “hickory chickens” in Kentucky and “molly moochers” in West Virginia.

colourful
Morel hunters categorize them by their colour: black, yellow, grey or brown. In this area, the more common big yellow morels, usually appear a week or so later than the smaller grey morels.

how
Washing or soaking could ruin the morel’s delicate flavour. To remove trace amounts of soil, run them lightly under cold water. To preserve morels, let dry in a cool place for two days to a week. Store the dried mushrooms in an airtight container for up to six months.

growing conditions
The best soil condition for morels is moist but well drained. If there is a dry spring, the crop is likely to be sparse.

habitat
Yellow and grey morels are most often found around deciduous trees, particularly ash, dead or dying elms and old apple trees. Black morels prefer oak and poplar.

About the Author More by Cecily Ross

Cecily Ross is an author and freelance writer who lives in Creemore.

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