Considered by some to be a delicacy surpassed only by truffles, morel mushrooms are one of the most highly coveted species of wild fungi. Because of their preference for growing in moist, but not wet areas, morel mushrooms grow predominantly in the wild in shaded areas of south facing slopes. As morels are one of the most easily recognizable of all wild mushroom species, you can easily tell if it's a morel mushroom by looking for a few unique characteristics.
Things You'll Need
Look for an elongated, cone shaped cap. Morels have a cap that flares out from the top of the stem and almost immediately begins to taper to a rounded top.
Examine the distinctively identifying irregular honeycomb, latticework structure covering the entire cap of the mushroom. The raised lattice-like ridges are highly discernable with deep, clearly defined cavities between ridges. This honeycomb characteristic alone is enough to positively identify a morel mushroom, as no other species of wild mushroom has this trait.
Cut the morel lengthwise, down the middle of the stem and cap, with a knife. Both the stem and cap on morels are completely hollow.
Inspect the cut stem of the mushroom. Neophyte mushroom hunters sometimes mistake "false morels" for actual morels. However, confusion is easily eliminated. False morels have a smooth, irregular shaped, wavy cap somewhat resembling brain matter. Additionally, the stem of false morels is solid and continues all the way to the top of the mushroom's cap. The stem of a true morel ends where the stem joins the base of its cap.
Tips & Warnings
- Do not attempt to eat false morels as they contain a toxin that can be deadly to some people.
- "National Audubon Society: Field Guide to Mushrooms"; Gary Lincoff ; 1981
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images
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