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wildmushroomonline.co.uk Identifying Edible Mushrooms. The Morel
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morels Due to the many and varied ways in which different books describe the identification of fungi, below is a collection of the most accurate descriptions as a "one page" resource to help you make positive identification

The Morel


A highly edible member of the Morel family - this one is the Common Morel. It grows in early spring generally on wasteland, gardens, along roadsides and in woodland glades that are typically not overgrown.

It can be identified by its dark blasck ridges that run vertically on the cap. The cap is often pointed like and its cap is cell-like.

The cap can also be described as "honeycombe" the flesh is white and cream.

Morels produce ascospores, which means the spores are enclosed within the tissue, and a force propels them out. The spores must therefore be near the surface, and a lot of surface area is needed. Ridges and pits increase the surface area creating a sponge-like appearance.

Sponge, pinecone and honeycomb mushroom-the nicknames of the morel-are all appropriate. Morels are easy to recognize and delicious. The surface of a morel is covered with definite pits and ridges, and the bottom edge of the cap is attached directly to the stem. Size: 2" to 8" tall.

The common morel (Morchella esculenta): has white ridges and dark brown pits (when small) and is known as the "white morel." As it gets older, both the ridges and the pits turn yellowish brown, and it becomes a "yellow morel." If conditions are right the "yellow morel" can grow into a "giant morel," which may be up to a foot tall.
morel side section

The black morel or smoky morel (Morchella elata): The ridges are gray or tan when young, but darken with age until nearly black. The pits are brown and elongated. These morels are best when picked young; discard any that are shrunken or have completely black heads.

The half-free morel (Morchella semilibera): This is the exception to the rule that morels have the bottom of the cap attached directly to the stem. The cap of the half-free morel is attached at about the middle (see illustration). These morels have small caps and long bulbous stems

You need to be careful not to confuse a morel with the highly toxic False Morel (Gyromitra Esculenta). This mushroom has a cap that is much more "brain-like" and a much shorter, squat pale stem. See the image below:

Deadly False Morel - Avoid!

deadly false morel

and here it is again so you can make sure you do not mistake it for a real Morel:

Here is some further information about the Morel

The Morel - Morchella species

Morels (Morchella) are edible mushrooms that are prized by gourmet cooks, particularly for French cuisine. These distinctive fungi have honeycombed caps composed of a network of ridges with pits between them, a hollow interior, and an intense earthly flavour. Morels, abundant in Europe are often called pinecones, sponges and brains in North America, where the official state mushroom of Minnesota is the morel.

Morels are typically found in moist areas. Trees commonly associated with morels include ash, sycamore, tuliptree, dead and dying elms, and old apple trees (remnants of orchards). Morels appear to like areas that have been burnt, and will grow abundantly in the two and sometimes three years immediately following a forest fire. However, where fire suppression is practiced, they may grow regularly in small amounts in the same spot year after year.

The Common Morel (Morchella esculenta) grows in spring, often in woodland clearings. They have a distinctive appearance, their caps criss-crossed with irregular, pale brown ridges between which are darker brown hollows in which the spores are produced. The stalk is whitish becoming yellowish or reddish when old. There are several other British
species of Morchella, all edible.

The best known morels are the Yellow Morel or Common Morel (Morchella esculenta), the White Morel (M. deliciosa), and the Black Morel (M. elata). Discriminating between the various species is complicated by uncertainty regarding which species are truly biologically distinct. Mushroom hunters refer to them by their colour (e.g., grey, yellow,
black) as the species are very similar in appearance and vary considerably within species and age of individual.

You will typically find the morel begin to darken along the stems as well as the cap as it ages. With cooperative weather conditions the morel can survive for up to two weeks before the natural decay process is likely to set in and begin to take place. Morels with some damage to the cap can still be good to eat, as you cut the bad bits off when you
prepare them for cooking.

When gathering morels, care must be taken to distinguish them from the poisonous false morel (Gyromitra esculenta and others). The false morels are a group of fungi related to the true morels which fruit in the same places at about the same time. In false morels the fruitbodies are wrinkled rather than honeycombed.

The most deadly of the false morels is Gyromitra esculenta. The head of this species has a brain-like appearance and the support stalk is short and stout. Over the years hundreds of people have died after eating this fungus. Some people can eat it with no ill effect because they have a high threshold for the toxin it contains. Symptoms are delayed and
nothing untoward may be experienced for 4-8 hours after ingestion. Early symptoms are stomach cramps accompanied by vomiting, watery and/or bloody diarrhea, weakness, lassitude and severe headaches. This is followed by loss of balance, jaundice (as the liver deteriorates), and then in some cases, convulsions, with the victims eventually becoming
comatose and dying.

One of the easiest ways of determining the false morel is by slicing it lengthwise as false morels are not hollow. The false morel is also quite heavy as it is almost solid in the stem and meaty, and often referred to as "cottony".

Morels are delicious and can be eaten stuffed, broiled, sautéed, or incorporated into meat, egg recipes and casseroles. Morels freeze and dry well, but are at their best when firm and fresh. The white morel is considered to be superior in taste and texture to black morels. Specimens that can be cleaned with a brush are preferable to those that have to be washed since washing tends to reduce the intensity of the morel flavour. If you haven't tried morels before, cook them simply the first time - sauteed slowly in butter with a little cream added at the end and served on toast will allow you to experience the essence of the nutty, refined morel flavour.

Morels Stuffed with Lamb recipe (serves 4)

500g minced lamb
large fresh morels (quantity depends on size)
4T fresh tarragon, chopped
1/4 t ground cardamon
3 clove garlic, crushed
1 egg
3 T cracker crumbs

Try to select morels that are about the same size so this dish will cook evenly. Clean the morels and slice lengthwise (the number of morels required varies from 6-20 depending on size). Put the remaining ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly. Stuff each half morel with the lamb mixture. Place the morels in a glass baking dish and bake in a 350 degree oven for 25-35 minutes or until the meat mixture is barely done.

Stuffed in smaller morels this dish is a delicious appetizer, larger stuffed morels make an excellent main dish served with a rice and wild rice pilaf and a green vegetable. Accompany the meal with a good red wine.

Here is a video of how to prepare the Morel:

Here is a page that contains some info about the best way to go about collecting the Morel

You can help others yourself, why not post in the "forager" section and share your revent foraging trip stories: http://www.wildmushroomsonline.co.uk/Recent-Foraging-Trips/

View all articles on this site here: http://www.wildmushroomsonline.co.uk/all-category-list/

wildmushroomonline.co.uk Comments
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Posted By,  coldwaterjohn on May 11,2010
What I believe is an edible morel (confirmation would be great! found growing in a rosebed heavily mulched with bark and wood chippings, on the shady side of a drystone wall in the garden, in northern Scotland.
Posted By,  mike westgate on August 3,2010
This fungi is growing in my orchard in a circle around a 10 yr old Silver Birch. Approc 200 mm dia.
Posted By,  Joanne Rayner on April 18,2011
i found Morels growing in my garden in an area covered with wood chippings. I have a feeling there is both edible and non edible growing there so reluctant to eat any.
Posted By,  John Michaels on May 5,2012
With reference to the video on preparing Morels:
"Debris" is pronouced as (de-bree)
NOT (de-breeze).
Posted By,  Al on May 31,2012
Actually John, it's deb-ree
NOT de-bree
Posted By,  Goose on March 18,2013
Great pictures, I have yet to pick a Morel.
Posted By,  Peter Collins on March 31,2013
I found morels in an Olive Grove in Southern Andalucia today. it has rained for weeks and the temparature is about 15 degrees c
They are totally hollow but do not look quite like examples I have seen on websites in that these have a pointed head . Although I do not believe they are the false Morel I am terrified of eating them. is there a spore print I could see to copy ?
Thanking you
Posted By,  peter Collins on March 31,2013
Another photo of the andalucian Morel from the Olive Groves
They are totally hollow
They are totally hollow
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Wild Mushroom Identification - Recommended Books for All Skill Levels:
Every amateur mycologist should have a decent library of books, here are the top five books I highly recommend for wild mushroom identification:
1) Field Guide to Edible Mushrooms of Britain and Europe (Field Guides)  - Great layout with superb images - Peter Jordan
3) Mushrooms: A comprehensive guide to mushroom identification  - This one is a proper belter with loads and loads of good technical data - Roger Phillips
4) Complete Mushroom Book: The Quiet Hunt   - A lovely book by a lovely man. Antonio Carluccio
5) Mushrooms: River Cottage Handbook No.1 - Always a favourite from Hugh's fungi specialist friend, John Wright

It is important to have at least 3 books so you can cross reference and cover as many species as possible