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Harvesting morel mushrooms

Quick facts

  • Morel mushrooms are prized for culinary uses.
  • Morels usually emerge in the spring in woodlands after adequate rainfall.
  • When harvesting, pinch or cut the stem just above the soil to leave the base of the mushroom in the soil. 
  • Correctly identify the mushroom you pick and plan to eat to avoid consuming poisonous look-alikes, such as the “false” morel.

The morel mushroom (also called yellow morels or sponge mushrooms) is known around the world but is most prevalent in the northern hemisphere. Morel mushrooms are probably the most recognizable and sought-after edible mushroom.

  • Morels usually emerge annually in the spring when there has been adequate rainfall.
  • In southern Minnesota they can be found in late April through May, depending on the rainfall and temperature.
  • Northern Minnesota may see morels into June.

Note: There is a “false” morel that is poisonous. See identification cues from the Minnesota Harvester Handbook’s fact sheet.

Hunting for morels

  • Morels are most commonly found in woodlands or woody edges. 
    • Morels grow under or around decaying elms, ash, poplar and apple trees. 
    • Other preferred sites include south facing slopes, burned (forest fire) or logged woodlands and disturbed areas. 
  • When harvesting wild mushrooms, it is recommended that you pinch or cut the stem just above the soil to leave the base of the mushroom in the soil. 
  • Use an onion bag to collect the mushrooms.
  • Prepare for a walk in the woods by wearing proper clothes and boots.

Beware of poisonous mushrooms

Warning: Many wild mushrooms are poisonous and can be fatal. Correctly identify the mushroom you pick and plan to eat. An old mushroom hunters’ axiom states “When in doubt, throw it out.” This is a good rule to follow.

If you believe you have ingested a poisonous mushroom, immediately contact Poison Control (1-800-222-1222), and save an uncooked sample of the mushrooms you consumed for the purpose of identification. This can be critical for determining the proper course of treatment.


The Minnesota Harvester Handbook

The Minnesota Harvester Handbook addresses sustainable natural resource harvest and markets. This resource – developed by the University of Minnesota Extension and many contributors – demonstrates the breadth and diversity of natural resources found in and around the state’s woodlands. For more non-timber forest products to harvest this spring, purchase a copy of the Minnesota Harvester Handbook or find it on the University's digital conservancy.

Gary Wyatt,  Extension educator

Reviewed in 2020

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