Delicious, expensive and rare, aptly describe this mushroom. It is traded like a global commodity with spot prices set weekly based on supply. I notice that today’s price for 1kg in London is £100. We have brought groups as far as Turkey to find, eat and celebrate it at an annual festival in the beautiful village of Uzumlu.
I am, of course talking about the Morel. It is harvested commercially throughout the world from Europe to Asia to the USA where it is picked by groups of migrant foragers who travel to the best regions for the season with a view to making small fortunes. Stories abound of people making over $1,000/day. Temporary buyer stations are established in villages throughout the western mountain ranges. If you’re interested in getting involved take a look at this morel forum where the pickers and buyers meet. But be warned it is very hard physical work
covering difficult terrain and can sometimes involve armed conflict with rival morel hunting groups.
Morels seem to be widespread throughout Ireland. The most common morel finds that I hear about are on mulch. Mulching and spreading infected wood seems to prompt a flush of morels and therefore quite a few people first encounter them on managed beds. However this is usually the “Black Morel “(Morchella elata) which is not as good an eater as the ironically elusive “Common Morel“(Morchella esculenta).
Of course, the other important point to make about
the Morel is that it is one of the very few Spring season eaters. This is possibly one of the reasons that we don’t see it very often, as most of our mushroom hunting is done in the late-summer/Autumn season.
The passionate new wave of wild food chefs are already out there and finding morels for their seasonal/local menus. This photo of the Common Morel found in Wicklow was provided by Eric Heilig from the recently Michelin starred Heron & Grey in Blackrock. You can expect to see morels on their current seasonal menu.
So get out there and find some morels. But beware the false morel “Gyromitra Esculenta” which is toxic. Tip – Gyromitra has a solid stem whereas true morels have hollow stems.