Montana Mushroom Foraging: Burn Morels

July 17, 2023

I spent July 2023 in Montana for work, for a wedding and for fun. One of the opportunities I had was to attend a talk from Jon Sommer head of Colorado mycological society and then go on a short foraging hike with them. This launched me into an experience I’d always wanted to try: eating mushrooms I had foraged from nature!

With a few guidelines I picked up from him, I started searching for mushrooms everywhere to practice going through some of the common identification steps: coloration, stickiness, smell, skirt presence, spore color, gill (or non-gill) shape and attachment. My basic guidelines were:

Jon mentioned that now (July) was likely a good time for Burn Morels in Montana there was a website which helped locate likely patches of them. Feeling like I had the most insider information I would have for a mushroom foraging mission I hopped onto to check out these maps and see if there was something nearby Bozeman I could pay a visit too. Modern Forestry also had a primer for hunting Burn Morels to help identification and potential mistakes.

Burn Morels, how not to mess up:

The real morel:

From this primer and the maps, I fell onto these guidelines for finding a good Burn Morel area:

So with an area picked out, we downloaded the Montana Mushroom Guide, checked the permit restrictions for personal harvesting and drove out across decently maintained dirt roads in the Montana wilderness. After parking and walking across an amazing field of wildflowers we made it to the edge of the burn and started walking around looking for Burn Morels.

After a 30 minutes we began to find some and further narrowed in our search with the following tips:

Orange cup fungus all over the earth
Orange Cup Fungus

Often a Burn Morel looked similar to a small pinecone and could be easy to miss.

A burn morel, looking from above

However, we managed to harvest about a gallon of them to be taken back home, cooked up and eaten. While edible, some people are sensitive to Burn Morels so I only had a portion of the Morels for dinner to ensure I didn’t have a reaction. They were savory, earthy and delicious. It was a wonderful experience and I totally get the allure of the mushroom foraging craze.

Finally, let me leave you with some fun mushroom facts: