|Black Morel (Morchella elata)|
|Friday, 25 February 2011 12:44|
The Black Morel is one of the strangest looking and sought after mushrooms in the world.
Morchella elata is a gourmet mushroom used in many recipes by both individuals and high-end restaurants. Because of this and the fact that morels are very difficult to cultivate, they are one of the few mushrooms that is hunted commercially.
The Black Morels is easily recognized, with a cap that is described as being shaped like a honeycomb. The cap of this mushroom is usually conical in shape, characterized with elongated pits that run vertically down to where it meets the stem. The cap is brownish when young which ages to a dark brown or black in older mushrooms. The cap is 2 to 5 cm wide, 2-8 tall, is attached to the stem and is hollow.
The stalk is 2-6 cm long and 2-5 cm thick, white to cream in color and is also hollow.
The spore print is cream in color, so make sure to use darker paper when taking a print.
The black morel is found through-out North America in the spring and early summer seasons. They are commonly found in coniferous forests of pine, spruce, fir and larch. It can also be found around deciduous trees like oak and poplar. Personally, I have had much success finding this mushroom by searching areas of poplar tree, which are located inside coniferous forests.
Morchella elata also grows very plentifully in areas of coniferous forests that have been charred by a forest fires. The largest quantities can found in the spring/summer the very next year after the forest fire.
To the untrained eye, the toxic false morels (Gyromitra esculenta) can resemble the black morel. The false morel has a brain like shape to cap, while the black morel has a net like pattern to cap. The easiest way to tell them apart is to cut them in half vertically. False morels are chambered and partly solid inside while true morels are hollow.
Morels should never be eaten raw as uncooked morels can cause nausea in some people. There are many recipes for black morels, but the simplest is to just to sauté them in butter and add salt and pepper to taste.
Morels can be easily persevered by flash freezing them or drying them in a standard food dehydrator.