Wonders in the Woodchip! The Black Morel

They always say ‘ keep your favourite edible mushroom sites a big secret’, but it’s even better to prize this information out of other people! Hoo ha ha! (my best evil laugh)

Picture of Black Morel (Morchella elata)A Gardener/ landscaper, while in the area, overheard my mushroom ravings while at my local watering hole. He wanted me to identify a mushroom found in one of his new clients’ gardens. After a quick glance on his iPhone I immediately knew it was a Black Morel (Morchella elata).

After badgering the poor chap and discovering the exact location of these beauties (literally up the road!) I went onwards to then bother the owner of the said garden. Luckily he was very accommodating and allowed me to take pictures and take them all if I wanted. I only took a few and left the rest to do their thing.

This is the season for Morels, which is early spring (april/may) and they were in abundance amongst the woodchip of this side street front garden. They were a little past their prime and were very large specimens (up to 15cm). Most of the older and blacker ones had split open at the top, but a few were salvageable and I took these home.

The Black Morel is similar to the more common Yellow Morel (Morchella esculenta) but it is darker reddish brown (getting blacker as it ages). The cap is more conical in shape with almost parallel ridges and pits flowing vertically upwards. And like the Yellow Morel it is also completely hollow inside both the cap and stem. Take a closer look at the stem which is whitish/brown – you’ll also see mini granules on it’s surface which have a mildly rough texture.

A totally natural environment for the Black Morel is on Chalky soil within coniferous woodland (esp. Scotland), but in recent years these fungi have appeared more often in urban environments such as roadsides or wasteland, and especially in gardens amongst the woodchip. The mycelium itself remains in the wood throughout transport and when scattered on a soil it likes it tends to fruit in numbers.

As a much sought after, excellent edible mushroom it’s best to grab these when they are younger, and also remember they are not out for long as they have a short fruiting season.

I’m no top chef but I do know you shouldn’t eat these raw, they must be cooked well before consumption. Their hollow body acts as a natural dish when cut in half. Filling them with a savoury stuffing to put in the oven is a great idea. They also go well with in sauces accompanying meat dishes due to their strong robust flavour.

For now I’m going to dry my specimens as this is the best method for storage, and I’ll come back to them later when I have a few recipe ideas. A good tip is to make sure you clean them thoroughly before storing as insects can tend be missed when hidden in the hidey holes!

Hope you all find some soon. Enjoy.

Black mushroom with honeycomb pattern

The Black Morel (Morchella elata). Note the granular surface on the stem and hollow body when cut in half.

And to end, I’d like to finish with this popular carol:

The first morel the shepherds did see
In the springtime beneath a dying elm tree:
Morel, morel,
Morel, morel!
Where we find them we never will tell,
Morel!

All together now…

27 replies
  1. Varsha
    Varsha says:

    I must admit, I read this article with intense jealousy! After going on a few visits here, there and everywhere trying to find these little teases, I came home with no avail – almost close to tears but most definatly threw a tantrum!

    Hope you enjoy your Morels! I’m very sure you will! And congratulations, I hope I strike lucky this week maybe!

    Reply
  2. J C Harris
    J C Harris says:

    Thanks for the comment Varsha. Sorry I caused some jealousy, but I know how you feel. I too have been here, there and everywhere searching for these beauties and it’s just typical that they were literally up the road from me all the time.

    Anyway, I hope you have some luck very soon and find them in great numbers.

    Thanks again
    John

    Reply
  3. Ivor Spore
    Ivor Spore says:

    Dear John, I think your interest in the hunt of field food is of great interest, my favourite is the good old blue leg, my wife moans about the amount I keep in the freezer, but how many people can eat them every week of the year as I do.
    yours Ivor.

    Reply
  4. J C Harris
    J C Harris says:

    Hi Ivor. I love the Blewits too. And no word of a lie, I found two in the woods on Sunday. They definitely were Wood Blewits – just out of season! Strange but true.

    Reply
  5. Tonic
    Tonic says:

    Hi,
    I have just found the first of the morels! Black morels! I have found them before, 3 years ago, in vast quantity, in a newly laid wood chip flower bed of a local park. Every year I went back but they never returned! However when the place I work at spent some money laying wood chip flower beds this January, I got very excited and have checked every day for the last month. Well today I got lucky! I have just picked and eaten 5 beautiful morels fried in cream and white wine sauce.

    They were very hard to see as they are the same colour as the wood chip which is why I think most field guides mark them as ‘uncommon’. However, well worth the effort of checking wood chip beds carefully, especially newly laid ones, and after a bought of rain.

    Happy Morchella-ing!
    XX
    Donna

    Reply
  6. J C Harris
    J C Harris says:

    It’s great you’re having luck too with finding those pesky Morels and very interesting to find they’re on wood chip too. I hope you enjoyed eating them. Sounds like you’re a better cook than me!

    Enjoy.
    John

    Reply
  7. Henry Mitchel
    Henry Mitchel says:

    I saw these mushrooms back last year when we were hunting in Ohio. And I was surprised now when I learned it’s edible. I couldn’t really tell by the look of it that it’s edible. Now I learned something from you. Thanks for this blog. It will make a lot of hunters free from hunger.

    Reply
  8. Vivien Yap
    Vivien Yap says:

    This makes me grin from ear to ear. Semifree morels (the other post) are delicious if you cook them in high heat for just a short time – like on a pizza in a 450F oven. I wonder if the blonde variety is available here? They are all delicious :)

    Reply
  9. Kimberly
    Kimberly says:

    Yummy! I can’t wait until next season. The hills of Tennessee are covered with these delicious treats! Thank you so much for all the wonderful content here. I simply enjoy every word!

    Reply
  10. J C Harris
    J C Harris says:

    Glad you’re enjoying the blog Kimberly and I also can’t wait until next spring to get my hands on some more Morels. It sounds like they’re in more abundance over there. They’re so hard to find here.

    Reply
    • J C Harris
      J C Harris says:

      Hi Simon. Yes, I understand they can be consumed with an alcoholic beverage. Any and all offending poisons are destroyed on cooking so it is safe to eat them once cooked.

      Reply
  11. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    I would love to identify the mushrooms I have growing in my woodchipping in my garden. They do look like they may be black morel but I am not 100% :(

    Reply
  12. Justin
    Justin says:

    I am so happy to say that for the very first time I have found lots of Black Morels in Glasgow. I had a dinner with them tonight and they were amazing. I thought this day would never come. I felt like a weirdo for the past month, poking around gardens and public parks, desperate for this glorious moment. If you are impatient to find morels and have given up looking for them in the country, then simply look in gardens and newly landscaped properties. I have read about this many times and it seems this is really the best place to find them… in wood chips/mulch. What I think is best is find wood chips that have been laid down the previous year, wait until the following spring, and then keep a close eye on what might pop up. I wish I could post an image of my find if it was possible. Good luck to everyone searching for these lovely mushrooms.

    Reply
    • J C Harris
      J C Harris says:

      Nice one Justin. And you’re absolutely right; woodchip and mulch in gardens are one of the most common places for them to be found in recent years. Good luck everyone in finding Morels this spring.

      Reply
    • Justin
      Justin says:

      I wanted to ask about the condition of some of the Black Morels before eating them. When cut in half to clean, some of the mushrooms appear to be darker than others, somewhat grey with white dots on the inside. Is this perhaps mold of some kind? Do you recommend still eating them like this? Thanks in advance, Justin

      Reply
      • J C Harris
        J C Harris says:

        Hi Justin
        The much darker Morels are older and it also affects the inside surface too. However I don not believe this is any kind of mold as the fruiting body isn’t around for long, and I haven’t heard of any issue with mold before. But I generally avoid the more aged specimens. I think a general rule good to follow is that the younger, smaller Morels are the best ones for taste and freshness.
        Thanks
        John

        Reply
  13. Pablomonta
    Pablomonta says:

    Just been out and picked about half a kilo in one of the Canary Islands… As you say some secrets must be keptpablo

    Reply

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