Hunting for the morel mushroom in the spring is so much fun! This was my first year and I’m hooked. Even though I’m not an experienced spotter, looking is great exercise. Do you know the health benefits of morels?
I know now they taste delicious, but I wondered what benefit they have for the body. This set me on a research mission to find out exactly what are the health benefits of the morel mushroom.
This is my first year living in an area where they grow. My husband and our friends, Glen and Tammy Trayer, are old hats at it. Before now, I had only heard of them and seen photos. I’m hooked. Just a word of caution, when traipsing through the woods in search of morels, be aware of your surrounding. Many other critters may be using the same neck of the woods.
What is a morel?
The morel is a unique mushroom found in the woods. These spongy mushrooms have a distinctive honeycomb shaped cap and a nutty, earthy taste, some people call them the steak of the wilderness.
Morels belong to the same species as the truffle, but their appearance is quite different. They’re usually 2 to 4 inches tall, although my husband has gathered some 8 inches tall. They have a cone-shaped cap with the honeycomb appearance.
The time for hunting morels is early spring to late June depending on where you live. When trying to locate morels, I’ve learned they seem to grow in wooded areas where there’s a lot of shade. We try and look at the south side of hills and scan areas which have a patch of maple leaves, at least that’s what my husband’s grandpa called them, growing nearby.
Try to pick dry, springy, but still firm morels. A morel has a short life cycle and may come up and be gone in 24 hours. It doesn’t take long for the ants to find and forage them for themselves. Colors of fresh morels range from tan to dark brown.
My friends taught me to shake the morel or thump it against my boot to drop the spores. This helps ensure “reseeding” so there’s a crop next year.
Morel mushrooms have high levels of copper, vitamin E and potassium, which may improve cardiovascular health. Since they are packed with selenium and niacin they may also decrease the risk of cancer, especially prostate cancer. They are low in fat and calories, yet high in vitamins and antioxidants. Antioxidants are necessary to boost the immune system and lower blood sugar levels.
One cup of the morel mushroom is said to produce 22 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin D. Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is produced in the body when the skin receives mild sun exposure. If you have a dark skin tone, you may need as much as 10 times more sun exposure to produce the same amount of vitamin D as a person with pale skin, like me!
Vitamin D is not found in many foods, especially not in plant-based foods, but it’s present in mushrooms. You must have an adequate amount of vitamin D for calcium to be absorbed and used properly.
Men can get 100 percent of their recommended daily allowance of iron from 1 cup of morel mushrooms, while women can get 44 percent of their required amount. In addition to carrying oxygen, several enzymes depend on iron to complete their biochemical processes.
Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency and the leading cause of anemia in the United States. Iron is needed for the production of nutrients essential for growth and healing, and the creation of energy.
One cup of the morel mushroom provides 8 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin B-6 and niacin and 11 percent of riboflavin. The B vitamins are a group of eight individual vitamins, often referred to as B-complex vitamins. B vitamins in particular are essential for prevention of disease. These essential nutrients help convert our food into fuel, allowing us to stay energized throughout the day.
The B vitamins function as co-enzymes, which means they activate enzymes which trigger necessary biochemical functions in the body. Two of the B vitamins — niacin and vitamin B-6 – may contribute to heart health. Vitamin B-6 removes certain amino acids from the blood which associated with high risks of cardiovascular disease. Niacin lowers levels of cholesterol, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.
Do not rinse morel mushrooms if you wish to store for a couple of days. Instead, use a soft, dry vegetable brush to remove any dirt or bugs trapped inside. Store morels in a loosely covered paper bag in the fridge or a protected cool spot for up to 2–3 days.
Morel mushrooms should be cooked. You can lightly sauté them or follow my recipe below. I usually serve Morels as a side dish. They make delicious sauces, are a delicate addition to casseroles, and tantalizing in pasta dishes.
My husband taught me to soak them overnight in salt water. This kills ants and any worms trapped inside. Before I cook them I cut them in half. I’m told it’s to check for worms inside. I didn’t find any, but wasn’t willing to risk biting in to one!
A word of warning for beginners
The wild morel mushroom must be properly identified to be sure they’re safe to eat. Mushrooms known as “false morels” are poisonous. They resemble the real morels, but their caps are round. If you’re not experienced, don’t hunt for mushrooms without first hunting with an experienced hunter.
I would say it’s not safe to eat a morel mushroom raw, however, I have never really tried or known anyone who did. Cooking can eliminate substances which may make you sick. If you’ve never had them before, some people recommend you eat a small amount and wait several hours before eating more, in case you have an allergic reaction. I pigged out, but then we’ve eliminated all food allergies from our bodies.
A Word From A Member of The Farmer’s Lamp Community
“Carry them in a mesh bag to spread the spores. Then when you get home, get a bucket half full of plain water, give them a good dunk. One at a time. Then take the water to a spot where you think they’ll grow good, like where you picked them or closer to home and spread the water. It’ll have some spores in it too! Cross your fingers and hopefully the next year you’ll have more! Love morels! Good luck!” – SHERRY
Thanks Sherry for the great tips!
- Morel Mushrooms
- All purpose flour
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup milk
- coconut oil
- Soak morels in sea or kosher salt for 8-10 hrs
- Preheat a skillet with just enough coconut oil to cover the bottom (remember to not let your coconut oil smoke – it's not fit to use if you let it overheat)
- Rinse morels in cold water, individually
- Mix a dry batter of ½ flour and ½ corn meal
- Beat an egg and ¼ cup milk (more if you have a large number)
- Roll morels in egg/milk batter
- Roll in flour/cornmeal mix
- Place in hot oil
- Cook morels for 3 minutes on each side or until desired browness
- Place on cloth to drain and cool
- Serve and enjoy! We like to eat ours with ranch dressing.
1)Soak morels in sea or kosher salt for 8-10 hrs
2)Preheat a skillet with just enough coconut oil to cover the bottom (remember to not let your coconut oil smoke – it’s not fit to use if you let it overheat)
3)Rinse morels in cold water, individually
4)Mix a dry batter of ½ flour and ½ corn meal
5)Beat an egg and ¼ cup milk (more if you have a large number)
6)Roll morels in egg/milk batter
7)Roll in flour/cornmeal mix
8)Place in hot oil
9)Cook morels for 3 minutes on each side or until desired browness
10)Place on cloth to drain and cool
Serve and enjoy! We like to eat ours with ranch dressing.
Do you have a favorite morel mushroom recipe? How about tips for hunting morels? Share with us in the comments!
Safe and Happy Journey,
Rhonda and The Pack