Morels emerge in the spring time. May in Southern Alberta is likely the best time to forage for mushrooms and can sometimes be found up until summer if the weather has not been too wet. Mushrooms grow without the energy from the sun but rather by attaching themselves to other organic matter and gaining nutrients from them. They grow and reproduce by shedding spores. (Not by flowering and seeding.) Spores are given off by the millions in nature but the conditions are difficult to replicate and therefore to cultivate.
Morels in particular tend to pop up in areas where forest fires once occurred. They appear in unpredictable patterns; sometimes abundant and sometimes just one or two and can vary from year-to-year.
Morels are known to be a high-end mushroom as opposed to a field mushroom, button mushroom, or cremini mushroom. Therefore when you prepare them, be sure to do it justice! Classical French dishes like Chicken and Morels are favourites. People know it's special.
The natural shape of morels leaves a lot of pockets and crevices for sand and dirt to settle into. They need to be thoroughly washed before cooking. Submerge them in clean water two or three times to be sure. They also need to be cooked thoroughly. They are mildly toxic if not cooked all the way through. Remember that dried morels are not cooked--only dehydrated to remove the water. Soak them first, then cook them.
Morels can be sliced into rings, cooked whole, or stuffed and cooked. The interior pocket can hold a nice forecemeat, for example.
Flavours to pair with morels include:
- butter and cream
- herbs and garlic
- lighter meats like chicken or veal
- other wild mushrooms
- spring vegetables like peas and asparagus