Morel Mushrooms – An Introduction and Health Benefits

Morel mushrooms are one of the most favorites of all the chefs around the world. They are known to add such delicacy and class to the dishes that even a considerably high price tag does not keep the cooking enthusiasts away from them. Hunted in the wild, unlike the oyster, cremini, or portobello mushrooms, the morel mushrooms, have a rich and tasty fruiting body that we consume. 

Morel mushrooms, also called Morchella, have look-alikes as well that you need to differentiate when picking up from the wild. They are mostly harvested in a few regions of North America, Pakistan, India, and China. Morel mushrooms have a distinct earthy and fruity flavor that sets them apart from other variations of mushrooms. 

The Appearance of the Morel Mushrooms

  • Morel mushrooms are probably the most distinctive among other types of mushrooms owing to their honey-comb appearance. This honey-comb texture in these mushrooms is attributed to the ridges and pits that go way up to the cap of the mushroom.  
  • The shape of these mushrooms can range from being oblong to bulbous while their color varies from bright blonde to grayish. 
  • With regards to size, the morel mushrooms might be as small as an inch and as large as five to six inches. 
  • However, these mushrooms must be differentiated from the false ones which look exactly like morels. The false morels are toxic and contain gyromitrin that can cause grave side effects. These false morels are mostly wrinkled and can be differentiated by brain-like folds on their caps. 

Health Benefits of Morel Mushrooms 

  • Helps Fight off The Side Effects Of Drugs 

For the people undergoing any drug or chemical procedures, the morel mushrooms are a blessing in disguise. Cisplatin is a chemotherapy drug that is known for its very severe side effects while the antibiotic, gentamicin, is also well-known for the same. Both of these drugs have demonstrated serious repercussions – such as kidney failure and depletion of the antioxidant defense mechanism of the body – when administered to mice. 

However, the extract from morel mushrooms based on water and alcohol, also known as the aqueous-ethanol extract, has shown the surprising ability to inhibit the depletion of the internal antioxidant defense system of the body. Hence, the research opened new gates for probing into this health benefit of the morel mushrooms.    

  • Great Source of Antioxidants

Antioxidants are a necessity for our bodies which help combat the free radical damage. Antioxidants are important for fighting against oxidative stress and protecting body cells. Research emphasizes the importance of antioxidants by demonstrating that antioxidants in our body also help prevent our heart from chronic conditions. 

Morel mushrooms are proven to be rich in antioxidants that help combat the free radicals in our body; thus, protecting the cells from lipid peroxidation.    

  • Contains Antimicrobial Properties 

Morel mushrooms have shown promising results with regards to inhibiting the growth of certain types of bacteria in our body that is responsible for numerous serious stomach problems. Also, certain compounds in the morel mushrooms are found to be effective in decreasing the activity of a fungus, Aspergillus fumigatus, which is known for causing infections that attack the immune system and render it weak.

Thus, consumption of morel mushrooms is significantly linked with one of the most important health benefits that promise the protection of our bodies from pathogens. Morel mushrooms fight off bacteria and yeast for us, making them the perfect choice for a healthy diet. 

  • Boosts the health of Liver 

Since morel mushrooms are a rich source of antioxidants, they have also proven to be essential in promoting the health of the liver. The mycelium in morel mushrooms is found to be quintessential in protecting the liver from damages of ethanol. 

These mushrooms have been tested to provide help in treating the livers as well as protecting them. So, morel mushrooms are not only good-looking and finger-licking delicious but also packed with undeniable health benefits. 

  • Strengthens the immunity

A unique polysaccharide in the morel mushrooms has been proven to contain an immune-stimulatory property that works wonders for strengthening the immunity. Moreover, the morel mushrooms contain certain compounds that act positively on controlling inflammation in the body. This compound demonstrated that consuming morel mushrooms increased the anti-inflammatory activity of the immune cells; thus, making them work more diligently for protecting the body.    

  • Helps to inhibit cancerous cell growth    

Along with the powerful properties of strengthening our immune system and protecting us from chronic heart diseases, morel mushrooms are also effective in treating cancer or inhibiting its growth. Certain compounds found in morel mushrooms have demonstrated a positive impact on curbing the growth of cancerous cells. 

Though research in this area shows promising results in treating colon and breast cancer, we need to dig in deeper to declare something with confidence. 

Possible Side Effects and Precautions Related To Consuming Morel Mushrooms 

  • Since morel mushrooms have a look-alike that is toxic for your health, you must distinguish morel mushrooms very clearly. Morel mushrooms are mostly picked from the wild; there is a huge possibility of confusing the false morels with the genuine ones. 
  • If symptoms such as headache, dizziness, or vomiting appear after the consumption of morel mushrooms, then there is a possibility that you confused the real morel mushrooms with the false ones. In such a case, consult a doctor immediately. 
  • Moreover, allergy to mushrooms is usually very rare. However, if symptoms like digestive problems along with skin allergies such as itching or hives occur after consuming morel mushrooms, you should see a doctor. 
  • Lastly, people who are already diagnosed with food allergies should always be very cautious about consuming morel mushrooms. 

Quick Tips on Selecting, Storing and Preparing Morel Mushrooms

  • Morel mushrooms should be properly stored in the refrigerator. It is important to store them in a container or a bag that has ventilation so that they can be stored for a longer time. 
  • The morel mushrooms should not be refrigerated for more than a week; otherwise, they might lose their earthy taste. 
  • Washing morel mushrooms is difficult and should be done carefully as they are delicate. Always wash them quickly under the water without rinsing them a lot as they tend to absorb water. Pat them dry with a paper towel after cleaning. You should not leave any excess water in them. 
  • You can also dehydrate the morel mushrooms by using a dehydrator or an oven. This increases the shelf-life of these mushrooms. 
  • Lastly, unlike some other types of mushrooms that can be eaten raw, the morel mushrooms should not be eaten raw. You can sauté them or cook in the broth before eating. 

Final Thoughts 

Morel mushrooms are a delicacy in the field of professional cooking. They are hand-picked from the wilds by famous chefs themselves as they add such finesse to their signature dishes that is unmatched. Having a slightly earthy and fruity flavor, the morel mushrooms are well-known for their meaty texture and a hoard of health benefits, including cancer-fighting properties.