Morel Hunting: How to Find Edible Wild Mushrooms

With a little guidance, morel hunting can be a rewarding endeavor. Learn where to find and how to identify edible wild mushrooms with these tips.

| March/April 2012

  • The morel’s shape is often described as being like an acorn, cone or Christmas tree. The texture can be compared with a honeycomb, sponge or brain.

Mushroom hunting is one of those great activities that blends mental and physical exercise, with the bonus of returning incredibly satisfying results. It’s a great way to get outdoors in spring, but the flavor of the catch is the best reward. Morels are the most-coveted specimen among North American mushroom hunters. They’re meaty, nutty and aromatic. Morels are a good target for newbie wild food foragers because they’re easy to identify and safe to eat. Although they’re not necessarily easy to find in the wild, morels are very difficult to grow, so if you don’t want to pay supermarket prices—up to $30 for a single ounce!—hunting them is your best option. Here are a few tips for finding a tasty crop. Believe me, you’ll need ’em; no one who knows where morels abound is going to share their secrets!

Mushroom Hunting Tips

• Morels can be found all over North America in spring. When morel hunting, it’s important to go slow, crouch low and look ahead for little cones popping up from the ground.

• Ideal temperatures for mushrooms to grow range from 60 to 80 degrees. When new wildflowers such as phlox, violets and wild strawberries are appearing, the time is right.

• Morels are spongy and usually between 1 and 5 inches tall—about the size of your thumb. The stems and caps are hollow.

• Morels come in a range of colors, from white and yellow to black and gray. Black morels appear first and are often found in hardwood forests. Blond and tan mushrooms usually follow, and the gray versions (some say the tastiest) don’t show up until summer.

• Look for areas where trees are beginning to bud and unfiltered sunlight is warming the ground. Blond morels sometimes grow around dying trees, especially elm, fir, ash and apple. 

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