Morel Mushroom Evolution


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How to Find Morels


Morels grow primarily in sandy soil, never clay, unless there is a lot of organic matter near the surface. Therefore, they are usually found near rivers. They are also found scattered widely in mountain humus. They never grow in bog, because water seals out oxygen.

The habitat is usually tall trees in undisturbed environments, though morels are sometimes found in brush. In clean sand, they tend to wander some distance from trees. They sometimes come up in tall grass.

Timing is critical in finding morels. They come up about six weeks after the ground thaws. It might be eight weeks, if dry weather slows down their growth.

This means early April in Missouri, late April in Iowa and middle of May in northern Michigan. Experienced morel stalkers check an environment several times starting early and after every rain.

Morels usually come up after a rain. The day after a rain is the best time to look for them. They will still be in good shape for 3-5 days, if someone else doesn't get to them. In about a week, they start to break down, and bacteria grow on them, which will make a person sick. So don't eat morels which are old and starting to break down.

Sometimes, morels will come up in flushes each time a rain occurs. Sometimes, they will come up without a rain, but they will then be delayed a couple of weeks.

Morels are not found in the same place for more than one to three years, because they use up the type of nutrients that they require, which is a particular type of bacteria.

The best way to spread morel spores is to put the old ones on tree branches. Only the old ones have mature spores. The young ones will dry before spores are formed.

Be careful of false morels, sometimes called brain mushrooms. They produce a toxin. It is usually not lethal in this country but should be avoided. False morels are rounder and lower to the ground, and the ridges are more rounded, like brains.

Be careful about storing morels a long time before eating, unless they are dried or precooked and frozen. Otherwise, bacteria grow on them, which can make a person sick, but not seriously ill. The bacteria are probably Psuedomonads. Store in paper bags, which absorb moisture, but avoid plastic, which causes moisture to accumulate.

Even when cooking kills bacteria, it leaves a moderately problematic endotoxin with gram negative bacteria, which grow on morels. Endotoxin is a lipid complex in the cell walls of all gram negative bacteria. It's the most common problem with food spoilage.

I realize that some morel hunters will hate me for breaking the first rule of morel hunting—never tell anyone how to find morels or where they are at. My view is that there will be fewer persons looking for morels if they know how hard they are to find. And the more information that can be acquired through words, the less need there is to tramp through the woods to find out what morel characteristics are. Then the persons who really want to find morels can do it more rationally knowing what they are doing.

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