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By Staff | Apr 17, 2009

Morel mushrooms are a favorite of many during the spring of the year. Locations of these tasty fungi are a tightly held secret passed down from generation to generation. But you can find them as you wonder through the woods on a spring day.

The Iowa State University Families Extension Answerline at (800) 262-3804 in Iowa and (800) 854-1678 in Minnesota has provided me with some great information about the morel.

Morels are the wild mushrooms that we can find and pick in April and May. The season is brief. Usually the fungus only appears for about three to four weeks. The mushrooms’ growth depends upon spring rains and warm temperatures. We certainly have the moisture, but the weather better warm up if we expect to see a lot of morels this year.

The safe morels are those that have the hollow stem. The first pickings of mushrooms are usually the gray ones and the later ones become more yellow. The tops all look like a sponge. They can be kept as picked (not washed) in the refrigerator one to two days, three days at the very most for safety’s sake.

Do not soak in water. They are best if you use a mushroom brush; brush them before cooking. If you feel you must put water on them, do a quick rinse.

Early spring morels don’t have bugs. Depending upon where they are grown, generally a quick rinse is enough. After late May, some mushrooms may need to be soaked because of insects. And because of the tiny holes that make up the mushroom, they may even survive a long soak. However, cooking will destroy them.

Most people cut in half or slice, rinse, dip them in beaten egg, and dip in flour or cracker crumbs. You can fry them in small amount of margarine or butter. They usually are crisp and brown in three to four minutes. Serve immediately. I’ll be glad to provide a taste test if you like.

You may want to consider freezing the tasty morsels. You can prepare them as you would for a meal (noted above). Put them on a tray and freeze individually and then package in freezer bags or boxes. To prepare them for eating, place on a baking sheet and heat in the oven.

One can also blanch morels, anywhere from three to five minutes, depending on the size, then chill, drain and freeze. My problem with blanching is that you won’t be able to bread and fry them. The upside is that the frozen mushrooms using the blanching method could be used in soups, stews and casseroles.

During this morel season take some time to enjoy the woods. You may be rewarded with a tasty morel morsel. If you happen to find an abundance of the fungus, please give me a call.

Gary Hall is director, Cerro Gordo County Extension.

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