Not much in life excites children more than a treasure hunt. Why else have generations passed on the great Easter Egg hunt tradition? Although exploring nature is often enough to thrill children, you can add extra excitement to a family hiking trip by introducing a treasure-seeking element. One such prize is the semi-elusive Morel Mushroom. And, such joy comes from hearing a child eagerly scream “Mom! Dad! There’s one,” as you come upon that natural morsel.
“Wait? Aren’t mushrooms dangerous?” You may ask yourself. While there is risk from various mushrooms, Morels are quite easy for even the novice to identify. With a shriveled texture similar in appearance to a brain, the cap, often golden or brown, sits on top a smooth, grey stem. To remove all doubt concerning the mushroom’s identity, you simply need to cut it in half. If it is hollow, it is a Morel. If not, then it is a false Morel (which hardly resemble a true Morel.) For more information about Morel hunting, check out The Great Morel page.
Apart from their ease to identify, Morels are a great treasure due to their availability. Found throughout the US, Morels often hide out in moist or semi-moist wooded areas. They most often grow at the bases of dead Ash, Sycamore, and Elm trees, yet are still found elsewhere. Anywhere from April to June is the Morel season depending on your location.
In addition to the joy in and ease of finding, Morels are a delicious treat to enjoy after a day of hard (or easy) hiking. With a meaty texture (a great meat alternative for vegans) and an aromatic, woodsy flavor, Morels are great for the grill, the sauté pan, or in soups and stews. Just soak them in salt water before preparing. Plus, kids love eating treasures they have worked so hard to find, whether Easter candy or the healthy Morel alternative.
Sound off in the comments below if you have any Morel adventures to share. How many did you find? Where did you find them? What is your favorite way to prepare them? Fried? Stewed? Or stuffed?