Learn a thing or two about this prized fungus.
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A few months ago, one of the chefs in the Southern Living Test Kitchen gifted me a bag of dried morel mushrooms. I graciously accepted, but I had no idea what to make of them. Unlike other big-name mushrooms varieties—portobellos, oyster, shiitake—I’d never heard of morels or even seen them on grocery store shelves. It was only once I did some investigating that I realized what a treasure had fallen into my lap.

What Are Morel Mushrooms?

This is not your average mushroom. Morels are one of the most sought-after varieties of wild mushrooms. Like truffles, they’re foraged, which means they can only be found in the wild. Mushroom enthusiasts have created entire societies dedicated to foraging and hunting for morels, like The Great Morel.

While wild mushrooms may sound exotic, they can be found pretty close to home. In fact, morels have been known to pop up in quite a few Southern states. According to The Great Morel, morel mushrooms have been located in Georgia, Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Kentucky.

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Morels have a honeycomb-like exterior, ranging in color from beige to grey to brown. But don’t just go hunting in your backyard and eat the first thing you pick. For more information on foraging, refer to the Grumpy Gardener’s Field Guide to Mushrooms.

Why Are Morels So Popular?

Mushrooms in general have surged in popularity as of late—heightened demand for the fungi has led to a surge in American mushroom production, as reported by CNN. I’ve been on the bandwagon for a long time, and maybe it’s time for you to get in on the trend, too.

Of all the various types of mushrooms, morels are by far one of the most prized varieties. Why are morels so beloved? Put simply, they’re delicious. Morels have a meaty, yet tender texture and an earthy, nutty flavor that mushroom enthusiasts can’t get enough of.

“Even people who claim to dislike mushrooms will fall in love with the meaty texture and nutty flavor of morels,” writes Southern Living Food Editor Patricia S. York. Since they can be quite expensive, morels are typically only found in fine dining settings.

Where to Buy Morels

If you’re not keen to forage for your dinner, don’t worry. You can order fresh or dried morels online—but it’s going to cost you. Morels can run up quite a price tag—4 ounces of premium grade dried morels cost $45.99 at Walmart. And dried morels typically go for half the price of fresh.

If you’re just looking to try them out, go for a 1-ounce bag of dried morels for $13.99.

How to Cook with Morels

Morels make a great addition to countless dishes, bringing sophistication and finesse to soup, pasta, or a simple sauté.

When working with dried mushrooms, you’ll want to reconstitute them. Simply place the mushrooms in a bowl of hot water so they’re completely submerged and let them soak for 15-20 minutes. Drain the rehydrated mushrooms—which will be 6 to 8 times the size of their dried state—and be sure to save the flavorful soaking liquid to add to broths.

WATCH: 5 Tips to Keep Your Mushrooms Fresh

Consider using morels in some of our favorite mushroom dishes.