Morel Fact or Fiction Game! Updated for 2019!

Hey all, it’s time to play Morel: Fact or Fiction!

Photo - Jinxie the Wonder Mongrel - Oakridge, OR

Photo – Jinxie the Wonder Mongrel – Oakridge, OR

Morel Season ain’t going to start Chicago area for about a couple weeks if I’m lucky or three if I’m bad, but being one of the more middling climates we Chicagoans get to spend a lot of time reading the Morel Forums.

Most serious mushroom hunters and mycologists stay out of them after the first week, we just can’t stand more than a week of debunking “traditional knowledge” that has been passed on for the last 100 years and we give up.

This is a simple set of True or False questions to test your knowledge about the Morel Mushroom. While some of the answers will surprise you, science is science, and sometimes you’ve got to go against tradition. I look forward to the debunking of the debunking.

Morels Fruit in one night, “Popping Up” at the size that they’ll be.

True or False?

Morels pin like any other mushrooms, then begin to fruit and grow under the right conditions. They start small and grow for about two to three weeks. There are several time lapse videos that show quite well their growth. Folks who say things like, “if you’re quiet enough, on a dark night, you can hear ’em pop!” are full of more than mushrooms.

legend has it

Legend has it that this notorious morel hunter from one of the the Driftless Region of the State of Wisconsin wasn’t careful walking at night while hunting morels with a flashlight, while they were popping. And boy diggity did that fellar pop, or what?

You must carry your morels in a mesh bag so they drop their spores, if you don’t “seed” your patch it’ll die out.

True or False?

Many folks carry mesh bags or baskets, and many mushrooms drop their spores after they’re cut and the gills dry slightly. But Morels are Ascomycetes and release their spores differently than most mushrooms. The release when they’re ready to release through asci, and especially in the case of young fruiting bodies, may not release at all.

Morels and are just the reproductive organ of the larger organism known as the mycelium. The mycelium may have been there for longer than your grandpappy’s been alive. For most species of Morels to keep growing they just need to continue exchanging nutrients for sugars with the root ball of the tree it’s partnered with. Morels can become saprotrophic upon the death of the tree host, at that point the mycelium will quickly (over the next few years) use up all of the energy of the root ball, fruiting prolifically. That’s why you’re looking especially close under dead trees for that honey hole.

For the serious Morel hunter using handled paper bags or five gallon buckets protect your Morels from damage that they inflict on themselves grating against the mesh of the bag. One of the best professional foragers I know only uses five gallon buckets because he’s tramping through dense underbrush, another who hunts Morels eight months a year uses a mesh bag. They’re both wrong, err, maybe they’re both right! Let the arguing begin!

(but I’m using two five gallon buckets with guitar straps and 3/8ths holes drilled all over, you gotta do what you gotta do!)

Grey Morels eat better than Yellow Morels!

True or False?

They are exactly the same!

All mushrooms are “born” with the same number of cells that they will have at maturity. The need sunlight, water, and nutrients to fully mature.

All Grey Morels will turn into Yellow Morels if given the above. There are no Grey Morels in North America, they are immature Yellow Morels. (or is it there are no Yellow Morels, there are only mature Grey Morels?) Either way the species are genetically the same, regardless of color and size.

If they’re grey, and still small let them sit for a few days. If they don’t grow then dump a few gallons of water near them. If that don’t work get on your knees and pray to your mushroom gods.

Morels grow wherever the spores land.

True or False?

There are at a minimum 19 species of Morels in the US, 14 of which have only been typed in the last seven years or so. Different species of Morels have different mycorrhizal mutually symbiotic relationships with differing trees. Morels generally have distinct macroscopic properties that can be determined with careful examination if you take the time to use a key. Dropping the spores of a Morel that is associated with Cottonwood Trees at the base of a Fir Tree will do no good for the Fir, the Morel or anything else.

You need to look carefully everywhere for morels, they are sneaky bastards.

True or False?

Morels are sneaky bastards! Here’s Mushroom King Weipert finding them in a hole from a root ball. But that’s not all, pro hunters will tell you to move at a good clip, not wasting your time checking every leaf, tree or outhouse!

Look for the big “Flag” Morel, that one flag that signifies others are around. Find the flag and then slowly and carefully inspect all around it in a radius that grows each revolution. This is the time for careful consideration of every leaf under the tree, not every leaf in the forest.

If your plan is a nice walk in the woods, by all means take your time. If you want to come home with a few bags of the finest landfish possible then cover lot’s of ground, know your trees, and hit the trees that are likely to produce a flush.

Pulling your morels will kill your patch!

True or False

Cutting Morels will leave a butt to rot and kill your patch! or You’ve got to pull so the mycelium breaks and “y’s” off making it stronger! Both methods are wrong! Errr, RIGHT! Pulling a mushroom does effect the mycelium, that’s right it yanks the tiny threads and rips them, and the theory that the mycelium “y’s” off and makes the network stronger has been shown as fact. Cutting your Morel, pinching it, and leaving a bit on the ground doesn’t effect the mycelium any more than not picking it at all, and might even be better than leaving a whole Morel to rot.

What’s great about this video is that the original research that Grey and Yellow Morels being the SAME species came out before the video was posted.

An ongoing study by the Oregon Mycological Society has shown that for Chanterelles at least pulling your mushrooms leads to higher yields, About 25% more mushrooms fruited from the beds that were yanked out, as opposed to the beds that were cut. I urge you to do your own real research, pull them babies and cut the butts in the field. Get back to me in 25 years and let me know how it’s turned out.

Use whatever method you’re most comfortable with, or what you’ve been taught. But remember to cut your butt stem so you don’t bring dirt into you bag, basket, bucket or whatever the hell you’re carry that 50 pounds of mushrooms out of the woods in.

Morels have no real nutritional value!

True or False?

morel nutrition factMorel Minerals ProteinMorel Carbs

Morels are actually a pretty healthy food. High in vitamin D, B complex, fiber, minerals, and relatively high in protein. You need to cook all mushrooms or you’ll get almost nothing out of them, the cells are made of “chitin” and not cellulose like most foods we eat. The chitin is strong and won’t release the nutrients without softening the walls by cooking. Since Morels contain a small amount of hydrazine it’s a good idea to cook that rocket fuel out of them anyway.

You know what, screw that nutritional information, both you and I know you’re going to throw them in a pound of butter. How ever you cook them you only get them for a few weeks a year, as long as you can buckle your belt when you’re done it’s all good!

You’ve got to soak your morels in salt water overnight, otherwise they’ll be too buggy?

True or False?

Folks do this to kill the bugs, but if you’re not slicing them you’re eating them bugs anyway, so give them a quick rinse if they’re a little dirty (which they wont be too dirty because you were careful and cut all the butt stems and any nasty parts off in the field, right?)

If you’re slicing them why bother soaking them, it robs them of flavor. Cut them and slap your knife down on the board as them little critters try to scamper away. Your aim will get better – the more times you miss and hit your grandmothers only heirloom table, or cut you little ones fingers off – I guarantee!

Wet morels don’t bring as much money, no one wants a waterlogged piece of slimy trash that was once a Morel, and the fresh dry ones taste better, last longer and have more protein (you know, because the bugs are fresh!)

You can eat Morels in the field!

True or False?

You actually need to fully cook all wild mushrooms. Mushroom cellular walls are comprised of chitin, and mammals are used to digesting cellulose. Humans (that’s you by the way) can’t digest chitin, nor can we get the nutrients from the mushrooms, and chitin has an adverse affect on our digestive system (race you to the bathroom!)

The good news is that a couple of hundred of generations before you and I were born humans discovered fire. Cooking meat allowed us to be able to digest more animal protein and enlarged our brains (a lot of good that’s done us so far!) But cooking mushrooms allow us to break down the chitin cellular wall and get all the good nutrients.

If you want to eat raw mushrooms in the field stick to sampling Oyster mushrooms every now and then.

You can eat False Morels, they’re great!

True or False?


Well, from what I hear they are pretty tasty. The problem is the toxin in a few Gyromitra spp. builds up in your body and you’ll never know when you’ll get enough to get you violently ill, or for that matter enough that you cough up your kidneys and liver. Some Gyromitras, False Morels sometimes called  Gyromitrin or specifically, N-methyl-N-formylhydrazine. (There’s that damned rocket fuel again!) There are some species perfectly safe to eat. This article is about Morchella spp, and we won’t go into here, mainly because there are other sources for Verpa and Gyromitra out there. Be sure of you ID, know which are safe, and enjoy.

You’ll find many folks ID’ing Gyromitra as edible, often stating that they’ve been eating them for generations and “I ain’t dead yet!” Well that’s just frigging dandy, and it’s quite possible that they’ll never suffer any ill effects. Gyromitra does cause 2 – 4% of mushroom fatalities. If you see someone telling folks incomplete information regarding this mushroom it’s your duty to tell the whole story.

Tom Volk, Mycologist at University of Wisconsin, La Crosse says, “Gyromitrin is a hemolytic toxin (i.e. it destroys red blood cells) in humans, other primates, and dogs. It is toxic to the central nervous system and damages the liver and gastrointestinal tract. It may act by interfering with transaminases, particularly those having a pyridoxal phosphate cofactor. Vitamin B6 is used in the treatment. As in cyclopeptide poisoning, a relatively long latent period ensues (6 to 12 hours) between ingestion and symptoms. The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, distention, weakness, lassitude, and headache; if the condition is severe, these may develop into jaundice, convulsions, coma, and death. Methemoglobinuria and very low blood sugar are found in laboratory tests.”

Morels are the only safe mushroom to hunt!

True or False?

80 pound Maitake

80 pound Maitake

If you think this one is true you’re missing a whole lot of fine mushrooms. Above is a photo of what was an 86 pound Hen of the Woods. I had to cut into three pieces to carry it out of the woods.When I’m out hunting Morels I’m also looking for Ramps, and Nettles, and on the way home wild garlic and wild onion on the road sides, as well as Dryads Saddle (P. saqumosus) and Chicken of the Woods (L. sulphureus) and other early fruiting mushrooms in the woods and on the trees as I drive.

There’re a group of mushrooms called the “Foolproof Four” and I usually add two more to them for the Foolproof Four plus Two! I’ve managed to make a pretty good living knowing these mushrooms, and you should know them also.

Learn these additional mushrooms and you’ll never be without. Sometimes it’s just easier looking for a ten pound Hen of the Woods, or the bright orange Chicken of the Woods than it is finding a couple of dozen 1/4 ounce morels.

One more thing, remember to turn GIS on when using your camera, and post your photos of your honey hole widely!

Whatever you’re doing, have fun, eat well, and teach each other.

If you’re in the Midwest don’t forget to check out our Guide to Midwest Morel Festival for 2019!

Special thanks go to L. Sulphureus, Oregon based professional forager and artist for prompting this post by asking for Morel Myths on his facebook page

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