Hidden in the forests of Ohio, you’ll find one of the tastiest treats in the Buckeye State: the morel mushroom.
These distinctive fungi are known for their honeycomb appearance and delicious taste. Morels are prized by chefs and home cooks alike, and because they’re not easy to grow, most morels are harvested from the wild.
The morel, aka the morchella, is more related to a truffle than to other mushrooms. Morels are the fruit of a fungus that sprouts in the damp soil of the forest. Three types of morels can be found here in Ohio, over a 4-6 week period, typically between March-May.
The first morels to appear are the black morels. These morels prefer areas with ash trees and are most likely to be found singularly or in small patches.
The common morel emerges mid-season and is the most popular of the morels. You can often find them under elms, ash, and apple trees.
Finally, the late morel comes out once all the other species are mature. These are tiny morels, typically 1-3 inches, and although they’re delicious, it’s hard to find enough for a meal.
Ohio does have a fungi known as the false morel. It’s not a true morel but can look similar and even though some people can tolerate them, they have caused illness and death. False morels can often be found around rotted oak tree stumps.
If you’re looking to learn the ins and outs of mushrooms, there’s no better place to go than The Ohio Mushroom Society. The society was founded in 1973 and it’s for anyone with an interest in mushrooms, from newbies to experts.
Here in Ohio, you can forage in state forests, the state’s wildlife management area, and Wayne National Forest. Morels are delicious and relatively easy to safely identify for beginners.
Morels have a short growing period, making them expensive when they are in season. Morels are fairly versatile and add an earthy flavor to dishes.
Many state parks permit the hunting of mushrooms but special rules do apply, so contact the park office at each park you plan to visit. If you do plan to go morel hunting on state park land, you’ll need to remain on the trail, as off-trail collecting is prohibited. You can get more info about mushroom hunting from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources here.