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Finding Morels in BC – Like pirate booty!

a close up of a giraffe

burn-morelsI wasn’t always big on morels.  As a chef, they are really expensive ($30/lb) and really hard to clean with all those bloody holes in the caps.  But I found a cluster of small black morels when I was hiking, totally clean! Free luxury culinary ingredients always makes me excited.  So, I added those to my slow-cooked pork shoulder gravy and, voila, I was a changed woman!  The texture is brilliant and the meaty flavour has me salivating just thinking about it.  Here’s my tips on how to find them.  – Chef Robin

Signing up for one of our fall Mushroom Tours is one of the best ways to stay safe when you start learning about foraging for mushrooms.

Edible Morels (Morchella genus)

Where do I look?

  • Finding morels in BC: Burn sites (the year after a fire) – the Okanagan would be a good start considering the amount of fires they have, disturbed areas (clear cuts, near roads etc.) – this mushroom pops up in many different environments.

When do I look?

  • Spring in BC – possible in summer, fall and even winter though.  They seem to like a warming trend followed by a cold spell.  Spring rains are a good sign too.  Bah… it’s really hard to nail these conditions down though, sometimes you just have to be lucky.

Key Features?morel-vs-gyromitra

  • Honeycombed cap!  The false morels have a brain-like or wrinkled cap (no holes)
  • Cap joined to the stalk along it’s full length, and is not umbrella like (Verpa genus is umbrella like)
  • Mushroom is hollow and doesn’t have a cottony pith filling
  • Cap can be black or beige (Morchella elata or angusticeps etc)

Know these look alikes first…

  • False morel – Gyromitra esculenta (refer to picture) – deadly poisonous raw!
  • Best to avoid all Gyromitra family mushrooms with the brain-like cap
  • Early Morel – Verpa bohemica – cap shape is umbrella like (cap is free from stalk) and stalk has a cottony filling

How to cook them?

  • When you pick them make sure to cut or brush the dirt off them.  This simple step saves you oodles of time.
  • At home, check your morels for dirt and you can use water with these to clean them.
  • YOU MUST COOK MORELS! – This is one mushroom that can give you stomach upsets if eaten raw.
  • Dry them or freeze them if you have too much to handle.
  • I love adding them to gravies or pasta sauce. – Pasta with white wine cream sauce is my fav. to add them to.

Fun Factoid

  • False morels (Gyromitra esculenta) contain a toxin gyromitrin or it’s byproduct MMH which is a rocket fuel!  Once the mushroom is cooked, it off-gases the toxin, just don’t inhale it… or better yet, just don’t pick Gyromitra!

Note: It is illegal to pick in British Columbia Parks, crown land is fine though.  More info here.