The Morel mushroom, otherwise known as Morchella Esculenta, is a highly desirable fungus that can only be found in the wild. Morels are considered a rare type of fungus and are unpredictable in nature, making them highly sought-after by mushroom hunters. While most Morels have a honeycomb-like exterior and a hollow interior, the appearance of these mushrooms can otherwise vary from oblong to round in shape, blond to gray in color, and small to large in size. Their resistance to commercial cultivation makes wild harvesting the only option to acquire this species, which is predominantly done in forests throughout the Northern Hemisphere.
Similar to the Cep or Porcini mushroom, Morels grow on the forest floor and have a symbiotic relationship with the trees in their natural habitat. This is why Morel mushrooms can only be found in the wild during their natural growing season and are therefore most often sold as dried mushrooms at supermarkets, farm stands, and farmers markets. The process of dehydrating fresh Morels and packaging them in their dried form makes it possible to enjoy these exotic fungi all year round. Fresh Morels last only about one week in the fridge while packages of dried Morels can last for up to 18 months if stored in the proper conditions.
The Morel season runs from the springtime to the end of the summer, with less and less quantities available as the season progresses. Morel foragers often seek out scorched forests during the harvest season since Morels are one of the first mushrooms to colonize in areas where forest fires have burned the year prior. While forests are the most common place to find Morel mushrooms, they can also be found growing in backyards, flowerbeds, and even mouldy basements. This is due to the fact that Morels thrive in moist environments. Other popular places to look include the base of live ash and elm trees as well as dead or decaying trees.
Dried Morels are mellow and earthy in flavor and must be rehydrated for cooking. They should never be eaten raw and should not be overly cooked as this will diminish their incredible flavor. Dried Morel mushrooms should also be rinsed in water to remove any grit that may be present before soaking them and then adding the rehydrated mushrooms to recipes. The intense and somewhat smoky flavor of Morels can turn an ordinary dish into a gourmet meal, including eggs, pasta, and stews. However, their unique taste is perhaps best showcased in a simple sauté with just a little butter and a pinch of salt and pepper.