In the world of mushrooms, the Morel stands out among the rest for its delicious taste and it amazing health benefits. No wonder people go in droves to woodlands and fields just to search for these mushrooms.
But what’s in a Morel and why do people love it so much? Why are people willing to pay hundreds of dollars per pound for them?
In this article, I will talk about the Morel mushroom and I will focus on its health benefits. I will also add a few paragraphs on how to properly forage, store, and serve Morel mushrooms.
4 Super Health Benefits of Morel Mushrooms
1) Great Source of Antioxidants – Studies have shown that Morels contain lots of antioxidants that are good in protecting your body from free radicals. These free radicals are often the cause
of heart diseases, parkinson’s disease, Type 1, and Type 2 Diabetes. The antioxidants in Morels help in removing harmful molecules in your body called reactive oxygen species.
2) Heart Health – Morels contain high amounts of potassium, copper, and Vitamin E that are important in keeping your heart healthy.
3) Protects Your Liver – Carbon Tetrachloride (CCl4) is an inorganic compound that was found to be causing issues with our kidneys and central nervous system. Various studies have shown that CCL4 with ethanol can damage one’s liver. However, extract of morel mycelium was found to be enough to provide protection against liver damage from CCL4.
4) Healthy Source of Vitamin D – Morels are known to contain one of the highest amounts of Vitamin D among all edible mushrooms. You can get 34% of your daily required levels of Vitamin D from 100 grams, or a little less than a cup of Morel mushrooms- specifically Vitamin D-2. This vitamin plays an important role in calcium metabolism and bone growth.
There are also 3 other mushrooms that process even more medicinal properties and will drastically boost your cognitive function.
Now that we have talked about the health benefits of Morel mushrooms, let’s discuss more of what they are, where to grow them and their uses.
What Are Morel Mushrooms?
To seasoned mushroom foragers, morel mushrooms act like Bannermen in a war. This is because they will more or less be the first mushrooms you will see in the beginning of spring. Once you see a morel mushroom sprouting, you will know the others will be coming soon.
The good thing about morels is that it’s easy to identify them. Different species may differ in appearance but they will more or less have the same features.
They have oblong to bulbous shapes with colors ranging from grey to blonde. They can be as small as your fingertip while some species can be as large as their hands. Their unique feature is their honeycomb like exterior.
The popularity of Morels can be attributed to the fact that they are simply delicious to eat. Unlike other mushrooms that have a slippery or slimy feel, morels have a meaty texture with an almost earthy, nutty flavor profile.
Some connoisseurs substitute meat with morels to produce a vegan alternative for some customers. To an extent, Morels can be considered the rock stars of the mushroom world as they are expensive, hard to find, and look very exotic.
How to Grow Your Own Morel Mushrooms
Morel mushrooms (Morchella) are unique looking mushrooms that are gathered in the wild. Unlike other popular mushrooms, Morels can’t be farmed so if you want them then you have to go out and look for them.
They do have kits thought that will allow you to grow them in your back yard. They are typically referred to as Morel habitat kits and they can supply you with pounds of morel mushrooms right in your backyard.
The downside to the kits is they can take up to 2 seasons before they ever start to produce any mushrooms for you. But once they start producing…look out! You will have more than you know what to do with.
They can be grown in area where there is a clear transition from winter to spring. The season for them to grow is from April to June. You can cook some fresh ones and then you can dry the ones you don’t eat to save through out the year.
How to Store, Prepare, and Serve Morel Mushrooms
Like what I mentioned above, Morel mushrooms can’t be farmed like button mushrooms or shiitake. If you are from the United States, foraging for Morels start at around late April til June.
Just watch out though, the foraging can get pretty competitive as there are hundreds if not thousands of other enthusiasts waiting for the Morels to sprout. Seasoned hunters gather cues from the blooming of certain flowers like dandelions, bluebells, or lilacs after the rains in spring.
Some people are super protective of they Morel mushrooms. They find secret spots where they grow and will get mad if any outside visitors ever find out. They will only share the location with close friends of family.
To easily gather morels, you can trim them at the base of the cap. You will notice significant ‘pop’ sounds if you choose to break them at the base. It is important that you hear this ‘pop’ sound because that means they are hollow in the inside and are a true morel. If they are not hollow in the inside that means you have found a False Morel.
If you want to be really professional about it you can use a fancy mushroom foraging knife to trim them at the base. This could be better to ensure the base stays in the ground so that it will grow back again next season.
You do not want to eat a False Morel because many studies have show they may cause long term health risks to develop. While they are not directly consider to be poisonous many people develop acute toxicity after eating them.
If you are not in the mood to hunt for morels, you can usually see them in farmer’s markets or specialty stores. It’s best to bring a seasoned mushroom enthusiast with you when hunting or buying morels. You can also grow them in your backyard using a backyard habitat kit.
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How to Store Morels
Morels can easily perish if they are not dried properly or frozen. In storing Morels, you need to place the fresh caps inside a paper bag and keep them inside a refrigerator.
Don’t ever put them in an airtight container like a plastic bag or box since they sweat. Once they sweat, they become soft, turn mushy, and then decay.
Once you have dried the Morel properly, you can keep them for several months. Some enthusiasts even go and braise, steam, or saute the Morels before freezing them.
How to Prepare and Serve Morels
If you have a couple of grams of dried Morels in your hands then consider yourself lucky. It is one of the most sought after mushrooms in some countries – like France.
As a rule, Morels should always be eaten cooked as raw morels can cause an upset stomach. Morels also need a little bit of cleaning because it may have sand, rocks, or other grit within its honeycombs.
Before cooking, soak the Morels in cold salted water for a few minutes. Drain it and rinse with cold normal water to get rid of the salty taste.
Morels, if dried properly, will retain their flavor. To reconstitute dried Morels, just soak them in lukewarm water for 15-20 minutes.
This should swell them up and help them get back to their original shape. Dry it with a paper towel then you can proceed with slicing the mushroom.
You can add sliced morels to soups and on pizza or pasta. They can be braised, stewed, or cooked alongside the main dishes.
Traditionally, Morels are enjoyed pan fried with a little bit of butter and garlic with salt and pepper to taste. You will truly enjoy to eat the fresh morels.
There are 4 main beneficial health benefits of Morel mushrooms and are well known for their rarity and delicious taste. Most people choose to go foraging to find them however they can be harvested in your backyard. They will produce many pounds of mushroom during their season and can be dried to preserve them to use all year long.