The above, very wise Croatian proverb, amply describes my love-hate relationship with wild mushrooms. To be sure, they are delicious when cooked and added to salads and other culinary dishes. But for safety’s sake, I prefer to forage for my mushrooms in the produce section of the grocery store.
Of the wild mushrooms in the United States, the True Morels (Morchella) are the most prized. Gastronomically speaking, they are highly desirable and widely used in a variety of gourmet cuisine. Rather than farmed like grocery store mushrooms, Morels are grown and foraged in the wild by mycophagists, more commonly known as mushroom hunters.
Morel mushrooms grow on the edge of or in forested areas, most often around ash, elm, and oak trees. So when I found a cache of them scattered around a stack of dead Cottonwood logs on an often-traveled roadside, it was unexpected. Were they True Morels, or False Morels? Both The True and False Morel mushrooms grow in the spring, look very similar, but the False Morel is poisonous.
For helpful information about Morel identification and safety, check out this useful site from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.