Morel Mushroom season is a big deal for many families in the Appalachia. These tasty mushrooms grow statewide in West Virginia and throughout other parts of the Appalachian Mountains. They are great to add to any dish or just to fry in a pan and eat them by themselves, but half the fun is the hunt to find them!
A Moment in the Life of Appalachia Folk
If you were living in the Appalachian Mountains, you might get a knock on your door on a misty spring morning. It would be grandpa, telling you to grab a bag and a pocket knife. You would probably drive down dirt road tucked away in the mountains for some time, then would get out and walk for a while. You might even have to climb a few steep hills and walk a little more until you reached that specific wooded hillside. Then, you would start looking! You would gaze at the ground, trying to find a pattern, a clue, and at first, all you would see is brown, red, and copper colored leaves all over the forest floor. You would search until finally, grandpa yelled out, “I found one!” Then, your seemingly streak of bad luck would transform, and you would start spotting morels popping out from the damp leaf covered ground. Occasionally you would compare your moral mushroom with your grandfather’s or holler out when you found a ‘huge’ one! You would discover them in patches and next to oak trees in small colonies until before you knew it, your bag was full.
Creating a Tradition
Many families return to the same areas year after year to look for morels. These spots where morel mushrooms just seem to flourish are often passed down through a spring tradition. Grandpa would take his kids to this secret spot, teaching them the tricks and tips on how to find this delicate fungus, then when his kids grew up and had a family, they would take their kids to this same spot.
Mountain folk often bring an empty onion bag to collect their morels in. Because it has holes, this allows for the spores on the mushrooms to disperse as they walk, ensuring their return next spring.
Morel Mushrooms in the Wild and Where to Find Them
If you were to ask several people where to find morels in the Appalachian Mountains, you may hear different advice from everyone on where these wild mushrooms prefer to grow. The truth is, they are all probably right, as morels have a variety places they flourish in. It is said that morels are often found growing under oaks, elms, and ash trees, especially if the tree is dead or starting to decay. In the early season, Appalachian mushrooms like the morel can often be found growing along forest edges and south-facing slopes where it is warmer. As the season progresses and the climate warms up, they tend to be found a little deeper in the forest, on north slopes or along creeks with sandy soil.
Why do people love morels so much?
They are loaded with minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Morel Mushrooms have a unique taste and texture when compared to ‘average’ mushrooms. They can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week before starting to decay or can easily be dried. Mostly, morels provide an experience to its eater. These mushroom lovers have either gone into the woods to search for morels themselves, have made a fun day out of it with their family, or a loved one has gathered these delectable delicacies for everyone to enjoy.