Spring has sprung in Muskegon, and with it comes Morel mushroom season! Morels, prized for their unique flavor and fleeting availability, are a delicious addition to any spring meal.

But for beginners, venturing into the world of mushroom hunting can feel overwhelming.

Photo Courtesy of Cindy Beth Davis-Dykema

Expert Tips for Finding Morels in Muskegon

This blog post tackles common questions and provides expert advice from Tim Coddington. Tim is a certified Michigan Mushroom Identification Expert, having successfully completed Michigan State University's "Michigan Mushroom Identification Expert" exam.

Photo Courtesy of Mary Sundstrom

When to Look

Spring is the time when morels fruit.  When soil temperatures are consistently in the 50's and there is available moisture in the soil, conditions are ripe for morel collecting.  In the Muskegon area, the season generally starts two weeks before or after the first day of May.  Depending on weather conditions, the season can last 4-5 weeks.

Photo Courtesy of Blair Celano

Where to Look

Morels are a mycorrhizal fungus.  This means their "root" system (called mycelium) works under the surface of the soil to locate and attach to the root system of certain trees.  The mycelium is actually the mushroom. The part that is above the soil surface is the fruiting body of that mushroom (what we call a morel).  The mushroom creates a symbiotic relationship with trees, where the mushroom provides the trees with water and nutrients from the soil and the tree provides sugars to the mushroom to promote growth.

Morels create relationships with specific types of trees – aspen, balsam poplars, elm, ash, sycamore, and apple trees.  Occasionally, they associate with conifers, such as white pine.  The best place to look is under these types of trees, in soil that is well drained and not compacted. 

Mushrooms breathe oxygen (like us) and require oxygen in the soil to proliferate.  I have my best luck under large trees with minimal undergrowth and a thin layer of decomposing leaves.

Morel Photo Courtesy of Mark Grant

Identifying Safe Morels 

 Morels have a couple toxic lookalikes, so attention to detail is key.  If you cut a morel in half, from top to bottom, the stem and cap should be totally hollow. The cap (or stem) should contain no internal chambers or white cotton-like material.  As well, the stem should attach to the bottom of the cap, not up inside the cap.  There is one species of morel which the stem connects halfway up inside the cap (half-free morel) but, beginners should stick to the basics.

On the subject of safe to eat, they are safe for most people when they are cooked (they actually contain a poison until they are cooked).  As with any food, certain people may have an allergic reaction.  It's recommended (for any mushroom) that you only eat a small portion the first time, to check for any adverse allergic reaction.

one whole morel mushroom and two halves lie on white background



Harvesting and Storage 

When picking morels, never place them in a plastic bag or sealed container.  The morels must have ventilation, or they will start to decompose.  If not eaten right away, fresh morels can be refrigerated for a week or two.

When harvesting, I use a small brush to remove any debris, or other matter, before they go into my basket or mesh bag.  When I get home, I cut each one lengthwise and check for anything that may be on the inside. This way I can also verify they are actual morels (no cotton-like material or chambers).

Photo Courtesy of Patrick Chadd / Click image for recipes from eclecticook

Cleaning and Preservation

Morels can be frozen.  I lay them out on a cutting board (cut side up), individually, and placed them in the freezer.  After they are frozen, I put them in a plastic bag.  The pre-freezing prevents them from freezing to one another.  This allows me to take only a few from the bag, as needed. And morels can also be dehydrated or dried.

Photo Courtesy of Dawn DeCamp morel and ramps

Photo Courtesy of Dawn DeCamp

Serving Them

Sautéing with butter and garlic is the old standby (great on steaks).  My favorite, however, is creamy morel and wild ramp (wild leeks) soup.  It stores well and if made thick enough it can also be used over pasta. 


Photo Courtesy of Mark Grant

Beyond Morels

While Morels are a springtime favorite, the Michigan Mushroom Hunting Club (MMHC) offers resources for discovering other edible mushrooms throughout the warmer months.

Photo Courtesy of Mark Grant

Ready to Start Foraging?

Muskegon County is your gateway to a memorable spring adventure! With its abundant natural spaces, it is the perfect place for your next mushroom foraging adventure!

Additional Resources:

  • Michigan Mushroom Hunting Club: https://michiganmushroomhunters.org/
  • Follow the Michigan Mushroom Hunting Club on Facebook: www.facebook.com/mimushroomhunters

Many thanks to Tim Coddington, West Region Coordinator State of Michigan Certified Wild Mushroom Expert

Happy Hunting!