How to Identify Black Morels
Scientific Name: Morchella elata
Habitat: Europe, including Britain, temperate regions of Asia, North Africa, North America. They grow in varied habitat – Fields, hedgerows, open woodland, clearings and waste ground and burnt ground. They often turn up in fresh wood chippings put down as mulch in gardens, but seldom come back once the chippings have weathered in and the mycelium runs out of steam.
Description: Morchella elata is a type of fungus, descended from Cup fungi or Ascomycetes. Although the fruit bodies have a stem they lack the gills or pores of other mushrooms, instead releasing spores from a surfaces of fused irregular cups.
Each mushroom begins as a small greyish sponge with lighter ridges, then expands into a vaguely cone shaped deep brown cap raised on a large white stem. The mature cap varies in colour from to grey to dark brown, often with a burnt appearance, and is made up of large pits and ridges joined together in an irregular, blobby honeycomb structure. The caps measure 2–7 centimetres (1–3 inches) broad by 2–10 cm (1–4 in) tall, and when cut open are hollow, with one large space extending right through the cap and stem. The pits irregularly shaped with rounded edges The hollow stem is creamy white to yellow in colour, typically 2–9 cm (1–3 1⁄2 in) long by 2–5 cm (1–2 in) thick.
Morels are a much sought after delicacy, popular in cuisine across the world. They can be fried, baked, combined with other mushrooms in sauces, pies, stews… They can also be dried to preserve them, which also concentrates the flavour
Morchella species are used in traditional Chinese and Himalayan medicine to treat intestinal problems and shortness of breath . Studies have noted some anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour and immune regulation effects
Morels are poisonous when raw, containing the irritant hydrazine. This is broken down by heat, so they should be cooked for at least 10 minutes before eating. Or to be completely safe, the mushrooms should be parboiled and the water thrown away before cooking as yoy would any other mushroom.
Appears March to June
The Stinkhorn Phallus impudicus has a pale stem and grey-brown cap, but isn’t pitted in the same way and absolutely stinks of rotten meat. You certainly wouldn’t be likely to want to eat it! You’re much more likely to confuse the Black morel with other edible morchella species such as the Yellow or True morel, morchella esculenta, which is has a lighter yellowy brown and more rounded cap. Beware of the False Morel Verpa bohemica, which has deep wrinkles on the cap but not the characteristic deep cups of the true morel, and the Thimble Morel, Verpa conica, which has a much smaller cap in relation to its stem, and the cap is smoother, hanging free and unattached to the stem at the bottom. Both of these Verpa species can make you unwell.