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Morchella esculenta: Morel mushroom.

Morchellaceae: The Morel Family

Morchella elata: Black Morel mushroom.

The morels are a small, but well known and delicious family of mushrooms. They live in the soil and help to decay organic matter. Of this family I am only familiar with the true morels, especially Morchella esculenta. In mid-May on a warm day after a good rain, that is the time to go hunting morel mushrooms among the cottonwood groves that follow the rivers here in southwestern Montana. Unfortunately, we are often short of either rain or warmth in May, so sometimes I do more hunting than gathering. Tree mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) are a good consolation prize when the morels are in short supply. Sometimes morels can be found at a higher elevation in June, growing among the aspens. One thing I've learned about morels is that it is difficult to predict where they will pop up each year. A rich spot often yields nothing the following year.

Morels also grow among the conifers, especially the black morel (Morchella elata), but they can be really difficult to see against the dark soil. It is really exciting to find these morels in the mountains in June and July, long after the season is over for morels down by the rivers. Morels especially thrive in the ashes of forest fires, attracting thousands of commercial mushroom hunters the first spring after a serious fire year. I have never picked in a burned site yet.

Morels were my Grandma Josie's favorite mushroom, by far. She simply sliced and fried them in a little oil and served them as a delicious side dish to any meal. Raw morels may cause digestive upsets, so always cook them before eating.

References:
Arora, David. All That the Rain Promises, and More... Ten Speed Press: Berkeley, CA. 1991.
Arora, David. Mushrooms Demystified, Second Edition. Ten Speed Press: Berkeley, CA. 1986.
Phillips, Roger. Mushrooms of North America. Little, Brown & Co.: Boston. 1991.
Schalkwijk-Barendsen, Helene M.E. Mushrooms of Northwest North America. Lone Pine Publishing: Redmond, WA. 1991.

-Check out my favorite mushroom guides.-

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Books
authored by
Thomas J. Elpel
Roadmap to Reality: Consciousness, Worldviews, andthe Blossoming of Human Spirit
Roadmap
to Reality
Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction
Living
Homes
Participating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills.
Participating
in Nature
Foraging the Mountain West: Gourmet Edible Plants, Mushrooms, and Meat.
Foraging the
Mountain West
Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
Botany
in a Day
Shanleya's Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids
Shanleya's
Quest

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