A mess of common morels. (MDC file photo)
This weekend marks the beginning of morel mushroom hunting in our area. I'm not a skilled morel hunter. I just haven't got the knack for it -- yet. However, I'll keep trying and have recently enlisted the assistance of Maxine Stone's guide, Missouri's Wild Mushrooms, to aid in my hunt this year.
No matter your mushroom hunting skill level, any mushroom lover can benefit from this book. Not only does it serve as a guide for hunting mushrooms, but Stone also labels each one with a level of edibility, lists look-alikes to beware of and includes 24 recipes so the fun can continue after a successful hunt.
The other great thing about this book is this; Maxine Stone is quite possibly the only experienced mushroom hunter out there who is sharing her secrets with the world. Try to get tips from a mushroom hunter you know and you'll quickly see what I mean. Serious mushroom hunters usually don't share a good spot for finding mushrooms, or tips that have improved their hunt. This makes Stone's book an even more valuable tool.
According to Missouri's Wild Mushrooms, there are three kinds of edible morels in Missouri; the Black morel, the Yellow morel and the Half-free morel. She lists the black and yellow morels as the tastiest. These mushrooms can be found in groups or alone on the ground in deciduous woods, disturbed areas and recently burned areas. They may be found under white ash, tulip poplars, oaks and hickory trees.
The look alike to beware of when hunting morels is the poisonous false morel. These are reddish, have wrinkled, lobed or brain-shaped caps and unlike morels, these are very dense mushrooms. Stone writes that all true morels are hollow from top to bottom. So check to see if what you have is hollow or dense before you take them into the kitchen.
Some friends of mine like to lightly bread and deep fry morels and they are absolutely divine. You can also sauté them in butter. Stone has a fun, more advanced recipe included in her book for creamed morels. This is the recipe I'll try if I have success this year. I've found numerous other great morel recipes with a quick internet search for "morel recipe".
Although the hype in our area when it comes to mushrooms usually centers on morels, there are others to try as well. This is another way Stone's book comes in handy. Among other choice edible mushrooms listed in the book are Black Trumpets, Hen of the Woods, Lobster Mushrooms and Oyster Mushrooms.
Stone's guide, Missouri's Wild Mushrooms, can be found at any Missouri Department of Conservation Nature Center shop or online at www.MissouriConservation.org.
Happy hunting to us all.