Gaining a lot of awareness recently is mushroom hunting. More specifically Morel Mushrooms. Morel mushrooms are coned in shape and look like a Christmas tree. Mushroom hunters say that morel mushrooms are a delicacy and that you can store them for years under the right conditions.
Morels appear throughout the continent in spring. Trees are just beginning to bud, so relatively unfiltered sunlight warms the earth directly and triggers the appearance of a number of wildflowers. These flowers, along with temperature, are indicators of when to look for morels.
Finding the morels can be tricky and most avid mushroom hunters will not be giving up their spots. White morels, which appear later than the blacks, have a more diverse range of habitats. Forests, fields, orchards, fence rows, hedgerows, islands, railroad tracks, floodplain’s and grown-over strip mines are just some of the places the white and giant morels can be found. Unlike the blacks, the whites sometimes tend to congregate around certain types of tree usually ones that are in some stage of dying. Elm, ash, sycamore, cottonwood. Bigger, older trees. As the trees die the root systems break down and are desirable and readily available food sources for morels. Good results occasionally can be found in consecutive years in the same location.
Morels are split into 2 categories, yellow morels and black morels. There is another category called half-free morels but they are considered less desirable. True morels have pitted caps that appear like a sponge. The cone and stem which appear to be connected are hallow and one single continuous cavity. Foragers must be careful of fake morels who are toxic and should not be eaten. Fake morels are solid (not hollow) and are typically larger than a true morel.
Lake Of The Woods County has many acres to forage for morels. To name a couple larger spots we have Zippel Bay State Park which is a part of the Beltrami Island State Forest, and Pine Island State Forest which is located just to the east of Baudette. Combined the two state forests have 1,581,406 acres open to foraging. On top of the state forests we have local landings that may have suitable habitat for morel mushrooms.
Storing mushrooms is actually very easy. The easiest, longest-lasting method of preserving morels is drying. Place your unwashed (whole or cut in half) on a nonmetal screen directly in the sunshine and raised off the ground for air flow. Hard or reflective surfaces (like a deck or driveway) below your screen will help dry the mushrooms more quickly. Set them out early in the morning. Remove mushrooms before sundown. The process usually takes eight to 10 hours. Place completely dry morels in paper bags to store. If you keep them dry, they’ll last for years. Rehydrate in cool water for at least two hours. Use the caramel-colored water for soup, stock and gravy. Two ounces of dried morels will rehydrate to 1 pound. Do not leave drying or dried mushrooms outdoors overnight or allow rain to get on them. Do not wash the mushrooms before drying. The moisture can change the chemistry, making the morels hard and dark. Morels can also dry indoors on screens, but the process takes longer. Provide heat and air if possible. If you’re concerned about bugs inside the mushrooms, cutting the mushrooms in half and placing them on a screen in the sun will eliminate critters. Morels also can be frozen. In a frying pan, sauté onions or garlic in butter or oil. Add mushrooms and sweat or half-sauté them over high temperature. The liquid from the morels will create a soup. Remove from heat, cool, put in plastic, sealable bags and freeze. To re-use, put the frozen mixture into a hot frying pan and finish the sauté.