Morel Mushroom identification, season & finding them in the UK
Updated: Sep 9
The first of the seasons wild mushrooms is soon to be with us. The Morel mushroom is the first wild mushroom of the season and is a delicious way to kick off the Mushroom picking season as well!
Morchella esculenta, (commonly known as common morel, morel, yellow morel, true morel, morel mushroom, and sponge morel) is a species of fungus in the family Morchellaceae of the Ascomycota.
The Morel is not a common mushroom and can be extremely difficult to find however don’t let this put you off as the rewards are excellent and there is nothing like a Morel dinner!
For example, try my delicious Chicken Breast with Morels recipe. So good.
When are Wild Morels in season?
The Morel mushroom season is Spring (March to May) with the most being found in late spring. The fruit of the Morel or the mushroom itself can be found after rain, they must have moisture to start showing.
Morel Mushroom Identification
The Morel doesn’t look like a typical mushroom, its cap looks like a pitted sponge or honeycomb that is not seperable from the stalk at the base. The colour of the cap is most commonly yellowish-brown to grey-brown however, the colour can vary from black to yellow. The cap is rounded oval, to conical in shape and sits on top of a whitish stout creamy white stem which quickly becomes hollow. The common Morel mushroom can range fornm 3cm to 20cm, although a typical mushroom will be around 10cm in height.
Morels are native, but uncommon, to the UK. Their fruiting bodies can grow in groups or as solitary mushrooms.
Click the link to grow your own Morel Mushrooms.
Now the big question….
Where do you find Morel Mushrooms??
In their natural habitat they can be found in woodland, or under copses of broad-leaved trees. Check the woodlands, woody edges for the best chance of finding them. They can also be found in hedgerows and they often grow in land that has been previously burned. They have also taken up residence in our towns and cities and can be readily found in Rose beds and in areas that have been covered in bark, some sightings also include rubbish heaps, although our love for the Wild Morel does not go as far as foraging from rubbish heaps.. Yet.
Morel hunting tip 1: Morels have favourite trees, they seem to grow under or around decaying elms, ash, poplar and apple trees. Other'higher probablity' sites include south facing slopes, burnt ground or felled / cleared woodlands and disturbed areas of forests.
Morel hunting tip 2: If there is building near to you, housing estates etc where they use a lot of woodchip to finish of certain areas. Try and keep an eye out for fresh woodchip, because in the first spring that it is down, there is bound to be a good flush of morels growing on the woodchip.
Now, other than finding them we have another difficulty the Morel will pop up and then disappear within a couple of days, once they have appeared they will not show again. So if you know where Morel’s have been found before, keep a close eye on the spot and regularly check it.. As they could appear any day!
Learn about the Morel look-a-like, the False Morel by clicking the link.
Morel distribution and sightings in the UK
In the UK, eight types of true morels are recognised. Of these, only three have been found in Scotland. According to sightings in the NBN atlas, you might be more likely to find Morels in England. Although not a definitive study, it does point to the Morel preferring the slightly warmer springs.
Are Morels Mushrooms toxic?
Morels are not to be eaten raw or consumed in large quantities because they contain a mildly toxic substance, which is destroyed in cooking. Always cook Morel’s they are only edible when cooked!
Can you eat a Morel Mushroom?
Absolutley, they are in the top three of edible mushrooms. On par with the Penny Bun and Chanterelle. 'True morels', that is all morchella genus are edible and amazing when cooked.
Morels have an earthy, nutty flavour. They have a meaty texture, unlike the more flabby texture of store bought mushroom varieties. These mushrooms are a highly desired ingredient among chefs and foodies.
They're also high in antioxidants, low in calories, and high in fibre and protein.
We aren’t the only creatures who consider this mushroom to be gourmet many insects do as well so if you are lucky enough to find some then make sure that you gently shake out anything that might be living in there and dust off any dust or soil that may be clinging to the base – please try to avoid washing them.
How to store a Morel harvest
If you are lucky enough to have scored a good amount of Morels, you may be looking for ways to store them for the long term. Fresh, unwashed morels can be stored in a paper bag or some sort of breathable container (not plastic as they will sweat and degrade), they must be used as quickly as possible. You can also store them in the fridge for up to a week, but there are better ways to store Morels.
Dried morels will last up to six months stored in an airtight container. When you're ready to use them, simply rehydrate them.
How to cook and eat Morel Mushrooms
The best part is cooking and eating Morel mushrooms. The very best way to cook morels, is to fry them in a smoking hot pan with a splash of oil to colour. When the mushrooms are starting to brown, turn down the heat and throw in a knob of butter, salt and
fresh herbs. I love to use fresh Thyme the most. They're great cooked into a creamy madeira spiked sauce to serve over roasted and grilled meats. They also make an ideal addition to mushroom soups and can be used as a pizza topping. If you find fresh morels, do try to eat them fresh. They are at there very best then, and Wild Morels should be enjoyed for the luxury that they are.
Morel Mushroom Recipes
Traditional mushroom pairings such as beef, bacon and eggs work well. How about a brunch that includes softly-poached egg served with mushrooms and smoked bacon? Yum. Morels can also be paired with other springtime favourites such as asparagus, sea trout and lamb.
We love to eat them with chicken, here's a couple of recipes that we created to make the most of these incredible mushrooms.
As we have previously discussed, the Morel is not a common mushroom and can be extremely difficult to find. Remember that the fun is the hunt itself and if you are lucky enough to find a patch of Morel mushrooms, guard that secret with your life and return every year for a harvest of these majestic mushrooms.
Remember to check out our other Morel post on the Morel look-a-like, the False Morel.
Always be careful when picking Wild Mushrooms and never eat them unless you are 100% that they are indeed the right species and perfectly safe to eat.