They taste better than they look
People Are Passionate About Their Morels
Much like our famous huckleberries, morel mushrooms are a highly sought after treat in Montana.
Their distinct but subtle flavor, combined with their firm and meaty texture, make them a chef’s favorite.
The Bitterroot Valley is well known for its abundant morel mushrooms, especially after forest fires.
When spring rolls around, mushroom hunters spend countless hours hiking the mountains and riverbanks in search of these prized delicacies.
You’ll see them with their bags and buckets, walking through the woods and intently staring at the ground, hoping to find a patch of the elusive fungi.
If you see them as you explore the Bitterroot Valley, be nice, they may share some of their harvest with you!
How to Identify Montana Morel Mushrooms
Yellow and black morel mushrooms are commonly found in western Montana, and both are fairly easy to identify.
However, experts recommend making a positive identification before harvesting morels as there are several imposters that look similar.
Never eat a mushroom you can’t positively identify as serious illness and death can occur.
If you’re heading out to try your luck, follow these guidelines to avoid harvesting potentially poisonous mushrooms.
Step 1 – Slice the mushroom in half from tip to stem. Morel mushrooms have a single chamber inside.
Step 2 – Ensure the edge of the mushroom’s cap is obviously attached to the stem.
Step 3 – Verify the cap of the mushroom has pits surrounded by ridges, and the color of the pits varies from the color of the ridges.
Here’s a quick video showing how to identify morel mushrooms in the forests of nearby Oregon.
Enlisting the help of an experienced picker is always wise for the beginner, and investing in a quality mushroom field guide is highly recommended.
How to Find Morel Mushrooms in Montana
Start looking for morels in mid-April. Peak fruiting is normally in mid-May.
Typically, black morels fruit first, followed closely by yellow morels.
By mid-June warmer summer weather arrives and the cycle completes. Any remaining mushrooms are no longer desirable.
Black morels can be found in forested areas, especially in areas recently burned by forest fires.
These areas typically produce large numbers of morels beginning the spring after a fire.
Yellow morels can be found along the banks of good sized rivers, underneath stands of cottonwood trees.
A Few Morel Mushroom Facts
There are many species of morel mushrooms within the genus Morchella.
Although there’s some disagreement about exactly how many species exist, some say there are 21 species in North America and more than 60 species around the world.
Morel mushrooms can vary widely in color, shape and size.
The predominant morel mushroom species in Montana include Morchella esculenta (Yellow) and Morchella elata (Black).
Morels are difficult to cultivate and most are harvested in the wild.
Morel mushrooms should always be cooked thoroughly before eating.
That’s a Good Question
Morels in Montana fruit over a five to six week period beginning in mid-May
Black morels can be found in forested areas recently burned by forest fires. Yellow morels can be found along riverbanks underneath cottonwood trees.