Morel mushrooms, or Morchella, are a family of edible mushrooms that make their appearance during ideal spring conditions. Luckily for Montanans, the morel mushroom grows superbly in the unique springtime weather found in this mountainous state. Morels are known for their nutty, and slightly hickory flavor as well as their unique appearance and texture. Since these mushrooms have such a unique flavor, not only are they highly prized in cooking, chefs will pay large amounts of money for the morel, sometimes up to $500/ lb dried!
While there is obvious personal benefit to spending a few hours of your spring hunting for this sought after fungi, you can also help support your local economy by selling the wild mushrooms to your local grocer. Local groceries stores in Bozeman, such as the Co-op, will purchase your fresh morels for up to $15/ lb. Now, understand there is a large difference between a pound of dried morels and a pound of fresh morels. If your local grocer dries these morels themselves after they have purchased them from you, they can be sold for a profit. So not only are you making few dollars, you are also helping your local grocer bring in money for the community and state.
Tips for Morel foraging:
Morels grow abundantly in areas where burning has occurred, this may explain their slightly smoky and nutty flavor. As Montana has seen many forest fires in recent years, this makes it a great place for the likelihood of stumbling upon a morel growth.
Morels seem to thrive in scattered light, sandy or ashy soil most commonly near dead trees such as cottonwood, elm, and oak. They also seem to grow near the edge of broken paths in dead leaf matter.
Cutting morels at their base with a sharp knife will increase the likelihood of seeing repeated growth the next season. However, this does not guarantee the mushrooms will grow back the next year. They are very tricky.
Beware of false morels! There are many pictures that can be found showing common false morels that you will find while hunting morels. Be sure to acknowledge their unique shape and visible texture.
Other benefits of the morel mushroom:
While morel mushrooms do not pack a punch in terms of macronutrient content (only a couple grams of protein per 1 cup fresh), they make up for it with their micronutrient density. Morels contain a decent amount of Vitamin D, Iron, potassium and fiber, making them a delicious, healthy addition to meals.
Mushroom hunting doesn’t have to be a task. If you live in Bozeman, there is a high likelihood that you spend a decent amount of time outdoors. Simply looking around the next time you are hiking, fishing, riding a bike, running a trail, exploring, you are likely to stumble on a patch of morels at some point! There are a nutritious find and unique to Montana’s spring conditions.