This section is from the book "Our Edible Toadstools and Mushrooms and How to Distinguish Them", by W. Hamilton Gibson. Also available from Amazon: Our Edible Toadstools And Mushrooms And How To Distinguish Them.
In decided contrast to any of the foregoing fungi, and of unmistakable aspect, is the famous Morel, Morchella esculenta (Plate 32).
The Morel belongs to a cohort of fungi known as the Sporidiifera, in which the spores are enclosed in bag-like envelopes, in distinction to the Sporifera, in which the spores are naked and exposed, as shown in Plates 35 and 36. These cysts, or bags, or asci, which resemble the cystidium in Plate 35, and in the family of Ascomycetes, to which the Morel belongs, each contains about eight spores, which are finally liberated by the bursting of the tip of the bag, after the manner of a Puff-ball.
In the Morel the hymenium or spore-bearing surface is crowded with these cysts, and covers the entire exposed conical and pitted surface of the mushroom.
Description is hardly necessary with its portrait before us. No other fungus at all resembles it except those of the same genus, and inasmuch as they are all edible, we may safely add to our bill of fare any fungus which resembles our illustration. The Morel has long been considered as one of the rarest of delicacies, always at a fancy premium in the markets - a bon-mot for the rich, a prize for the peasant. I could fill all my allotted space with the delicate schemes of the chefs in its preparation for the table.
Pileus: Oval, elliptical, or round in outline; diameter one inch to three inches in a large specimen; hollow. Color pale yellowish brown, varying to greenish; surface more or less regularly honeycombed with deep depressions.
Stem: Hollow, dingy white, united to the base of pileus.
Taste: Sweet and pleasant.
Habitat: Woods, orchards, and shaded grassy places.
Season: May and June.
Plate XXXII Morchella Esculenta.
Dr. Badham's recommendation, among my list of recipes, is worth a trial for the sake of novelty, if nothing more. The hollow shape of our Morel thus suggests a variation on the conventional methods of cooking.
The color of the Morel in its prime is grayish-green, occasionally brownish. It is most commonly found in orchards, and is said to favor spots where charcoal or cinders have been thrown.