Updated: Apr 10, 2020
We've reached the end; the culmination of the Colorado morel series. This final post will be all about caring for your precious morels. You've probably put some effort into learning where and how to find these morels, and you've likely spent time in the woods unsuccessfully, coming home empty handed. Well, now that you have some, let's learn how to take care of them! In this post we will cover a variety of topics. From field care and safe transport, all the way to processing and preserving your morels at home!
An important note: be sure to fully cook your morels before consuming! They contain a small amount of toxins that are easily removed by heat. Also be sure follow the disclaimer at the bottom of this page! Don’t consume anything based on the information on this website. Consult an expert and be 100% sure of your identification before consuming any wild foods. Foraging can be such a rewarding experience, but don’t become complacent, there are things out there that can and will make you sick or kill you.
Additionally, the suggestions here may differ from what others recommend or practice. This is simply what works for me. Feel free to experiment and find your own preferences as you go. If you think your way might be better let me know, I’m always open to learning new things! On to the good stuff!
Taking Care of Your Morels
Morels live in dirty places and they make great receptacles for debris with all their nooks and crannies, but their emergence from the ground isn’t the only thing making morels dirty. They can often be soiled from sand and dirt splashing onto them during a rain storm, from bugs making homes out of them, from other critters having a nibble here or there, or from the worst offender, ash and soot on burn morels! In my opinion, nothing is worse than eating gritty mushrooms, so here are the steps I take to make sure my morels are in great shape and grit free by the time I utilize them in the kitchen!
In The Field
The first thing I do when I find some morels is take a few pictures and make note of any obvious patterns or evidence as to why they've fruited in this spot. After that I use a sharp knife to cut them across the stem close to the ground. Though it's a greatly debated subject, you can also gently pull the mushrooms from the ground and then trim off the soil. I won't get into the details of the cut vs pluck debate. Here's an article that covers that topic if you're curious. https://www.fungimag.com/spring-2012-articles/LR_Agaricidal.pdf
After removing my finds from the earth I will inspect them for any obvious debris and use a gentle brush to remove it. My goal is to get the mushrooms as clean as possible before placing them into a bag. I prefer to keep my collected mushrooms in re-usable mesh produce bags, but any breathable bag or container will work. Some other options include baskets, paper sacks, cloth bags, or your hat in a pinch!
In the event that you happen to find some especially dirty morels make sure to keep them separate from any nice and clean ones you have! You can wash these ones more thoroughly when you get home. This is something that I practice with any and all mushrooms that I collect.
Once I get home with my treasures there are a few steps I like to take before moving onto eating or preserving. The first is to rinse the morels which I do by either running them under a light spray of cold water, or dunking and swishing them in a bowl of cold water. Both methods work quite well to remove any remaining debris from almost all of the nooks and crannies. The one area that I sometimes have trouble getting clean is the inside of the morels, especially if they're weird and curvy or large. The best bet to getting the inside of your morels cleaned is to cut them in half vertically. I usually do this even if I think they're already clean, because I almost always find a few pill-bugs or other undesirables hanging out in some of the morels.
After rinsing I lay the morels out on a light towel or a wire rack to dry of completely before cooking, storing or preserving. This is a pretty important step in keeping your morels fresh and in good shape. If you were to cook your morels right after rinsing you may find that they become mushy because of the extra water. If you're in a rush you can place the drying morels in front of a fan or lightly breezy window. Once they're sufficiently dry - back to the level of dryness when you found them - you can move on to your preferred method of cooking, storing, or preserving!
As a note, I have read that people think rinsing mushrooms “removes their flavor” and “ruins their texture”. I would happily trade a slight loss in flavor to never eat gritty, sandy mushrooms. That said, I have never experienced either a loss in flavor or texture using the previous steps to clean my morels.
Storage and Preservation
In my experience freshly cleaned morels can be stored in a refrigerator for a week or so. My preferred method is to keep them in a paper sack in the vegetable drawer, but the mesh bags will work fine as well. Check on them regularly, if they seem to be drying out you can get another day or two by placing a lightly damp paper towel in the bag with them, but it's best to either preserve or cook them before this happens.
If you don't think you'll get to eat your fresh morels within a few days, or you have more than you can eat, dehydration is your next best option! I personally use an adjustable dehydrator, but they can be expensive if you don’t already have one. Other options for dehydrating your morels in an oven on its lowest possible setting, window screens with some air flow and sun, or even hanging from string can work as well. Your goal is to completely removed the moisture from the morels before storing in an airtight container like mason jars. Morels preserved like this can be kept for a very long time. I have some dehydrated mushrooms from 5 years ago!
To use dehydrated morels just pour hot or boiling water over them and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Once rehydrated they can be used for any application you would use them from when fresh! Though breading and frying rehydrated morels isn’t as easy because of the added moisture. If this is your goal they can be patted dry before breading. Also, be sure to save the water you use to rehydrate them, it makes a very nice, light mushroom broth.
This brings us to the end of the Colorado Morels series! I hope these blogs have helped you find your first morels, learn a bit more about morels, or have at least been entertaining! If you have any further questions about morels in Colorado please let me know in the comments or by sending an email.