The cap is tall rather than round (1 to 4 inches tall / 2.5 to 10 cm), and honeycombed. They look like an upside-down cone. Both the cap and the stem are hollow (which makes them crumble more easily than other mushrooms.) The colour will vary from buff to dark brown.
Morels are not closely related to other edible mushrooms. They don’t have gills or pores. Instead, they produce their spores inside their hollow space which they then distribute in puffs.
Lighter-coloured morels are called “Yellow Morels”, “White Morels” or “Common Morel” (Morchella esculenta.) Some people distinguish White Morels from the other two in the above grouping and class them as “Morchella deliciosa.”
The darker ones are called “Black Morels” (Morchella angusticeps or Morchella conica.) Black Morels start off light-coloured but turn dark as they mature.
It can be hard sometimes to know which is a lighter-coloured Morel and which is a black one, as each of them grows in a range of shades that approach each other.
Morels have an earthy, smoky flavour. The darker ones have a more intense flavour still.
They can be bought fresh, dried or canned. When buying fresh, avoid those with mushy caps or that feel grainy – these are too old. Dried ones lack the texture, but still have the flavour. Whatever form you buy them in, expect them to be very, very expensive in stores.
Successful domestication has yet to be achieved (as of 2004), though many attempts have seemed to come close.
The hollow space inside Morels is renowned for harbouring insects: larvae warms, beetles, springtail bugs, teeny snails with crunchy shells, etc.
To deal with the insects, place fresh Morels in a plastic zip lock bag, squishing most of the air out of it as you seal it (though don’t squish the mushrooms. Let stand for several hours. Bugs and / or larvae in the mushrooms will crawl out as they become oxygen-deprived and seek air.
Then split the Morels in half, and swish around in cold water to loosen dirt out of the honeycombed cap and to clean out the insides.
Then pat dry, and proceed with use.
Don’t eat raw. Must be cooked.
Don’t eat any Morels raw. They need cooking — raw ones can cause reactions in some people ranging from dizziness to some lose of muscle control.
Some people have allergic reactions to even cooked Black Morels, ranging from upset stomachs, to vomiting, to loss of muscle control.
3 oz (85g) dried = 1 pound (450g) fresh
To freeze, sauté first in butter, then freeze.
Morels are believed to have evolved quite recently, as far as the history of evolution goes, probably as recently as the last Ice Age. They evolved from yeast.
They were collected and eaten by the Romans.
More recently, we tend to think of Morels as part of French cooking. They have, however, actually also been a part of Appalachian mountain culture in America for several hundred years. In America, there is even “The National Morel Mushroom Hunters Association”.
Called “molly moochers” in West Virginia and other parts of the Appalachians.