|Half free morels, sometimes called spikes or peckerheads, feature a stem that is
attached halfway up the cap. Other morels have stems that are attached closer to
the bottom of the cap. Can be found in abundance in some years, which is good
because they are rather leggy (more stem than cap). Although, some people love the
fried stems as much as the caps.
|It has been determined that there are as many as 16 different species of morel mushrooms
in North America. It is hard to tell many of these mushrooms apart by looking at them, but
there are several groups that have defining characteristics. In the Midwest, three familiar
groups are the Black, Yellow and Deliciosa morels. Another morel, the half-free morel, is
separated from these groups by its stem/cap attachment. None of these mushrooms have
been officially described or named. The scientific names that have been applied to some of
these morels are names describing European morels and may not fit genetically to the
American morels. It's a complicated mess, but studies are being done that will hopefully sort
it all out. (Info at the Morel Data Collection Project).
Having said all that, believe me, a morel by any other name will taste as good. All of these
mushrooms are choice edibles. Found in spring, early April to late May, give or take a week
or two. Prime time in southern Indiana is mid April to mid May.
|In the Midwest, the black morels are the first to appear in early April with the spring
rains and warm nights. Seems to have an association with ash and poplar trees, but
is also said to be found under a variety of other trees, including conifers. The black
morels are distinguished by the dark, flat ridges and dark pits. The names Morchella
elata and Morchella conica are sometimes inappropriately applied to these morels.
|The classic yellow morel, sometimes called Morchella esculenta, usually fruits in late April and
into mid May. Large finds are often associated with ash trees, dying elm trees and old apple
orchards; can also be found growing under other hardwoods and conifers. These golden
yellow examples have light colored ridges and pits. Warm nights and rain during the season
brings on more mushrooms; cold nights and dry conditions equals fewer mushrooms.
|The poor gray morel has turned out to be a yellow morel in disguise, so says the DNA; but it
is still gray (and mighty tasty, I might add). Studies have shown that the gray morel, with its
dark pits and light ridges, is genetically identical to the classic yellow morel. The color
variation may represent immature specimens or may be caused by factors such as climate,
substrate and/or tree association. Who knows? Nobody.
|Sometimes called Morchella deliciosa, this creamy yellow to golden yellow Deliciosa morel is
distinguished from the Classic Yellow morel by its smaller size and pits that are more defined
and usually vertically arranged. This morel can be found throughout the morel season.
Where can it be found? In the woods.