The Search For Morels

By Raeanne O’Meara

After a several-year drought of morels in our area, this spring has brought us a flush of mushrooms. Be it a perfect combination of warm weather, several heavy rain showers and the ground temperatures reaching 10 degrees (warmer soil temperatures are said to spur on the growth of morels), the hunt has been on over the past week. While there were many fires in the region last summer that should be littered with morels, for now we have been focusing our efforts elsewhere.


The hunt for “natural” morels (what we’ve always called the morels that we find in the bush, not necessarily in a burn) has been an annual spring tradition for as long as I can remember. As kids, we were never overly successful at finding any great quantities, but we usually found a handful of them without too much effort. In more recent years, as long as the weather co-operates my partner and I pick a pound or two an evening wandering through the bush behind our house.



I’ve had people ask, “Where should I look for morels?” and, honestly, it seems like every time I think I have a theory nailed down, I find them where I least expect. For example, the first year we picked morels on our property, we found them roughly 10 feet off a powerline right of way, in a poplar stand. It appeared that was the ticket to finding them – the entire stretch of woods we walked through had no morels any closer to the wide-open right of way.


That is, until a week later, while walking the dog, we discovered morels out in the middle of the right of way. It seemed that everywhere we looked out there, we could see dry, shriveled mushrooms. After this realization, we made sure to regularly check out in the open the following spring and were able to pick several pounds within an hour.


A similar situation evolved just this spring – we were checking trail cameras and picking a few mushrooms amongst the poplars and had just wandered out into our field and were making our way back to the quad. Chatting about how pleased we were with the morels we found in the bush, I happened to glance down at my feet. To my utter shock, I was about two inches from squashing a little morel that was poking through the grass. The more we looked, the more we saw; some that must have been up for a few days were quite dry, but the rest were in their prime, so we picked a small bag to have for dinner. The variety of locations that morels grow in means the picking season can be extended if you are aware of little microclimates in the area.

Note: As with any foraging, if you are ever in doubt of the identification of a mushroom, it is better to be safe than sorry. True morels (Morchella species), while generally edible, can make you ill if eaten raw or undercooked, or consumed with alcohol; there are also several mushrooms that are similar in appearance to true morels, but these lookalikes contain toxins that can make you very sick. Additionally, be aware of your surroundings when out looking for mushrooms, as it is easy to get disoriented while staring at the ground. Also, apps like iHunter or Hunt Buddy are a valuable resource to ensure you are not trespassing on private property while mushroom picking.