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Little white worms in my morels

  • b

I brought some seemingly beautiful morels home from a very reputable market, only to discover they were inhabited by DOZENS of little white worms (tiny ones!) that appeared to be happily nesting inside the nooks and crannies of the morels, as well as in the "flesh". I've never had this problem with morels before, including the year+ that I worked prep in a restaurant where morels were often on the menu. (It's only now that I wonder how the heck we had morels ALL the time at that place.) Anyway, in an attempt to de-worm, I put the morels in a bowl, then poured boiling water over them. This helped evict the worms, though some of the morels were still infested--and I felt like I was torturing the morels in the process. I'm wondering if this is actually a common problem with morels that I managed to avoid (or was simply oblivious to??) all these years. I'm also wondering if there is a better technique for de-worming morels should I encounter this rather icky situation again in the future. If nothing else, I'll definitely be inspecting them more closely at the market from now on!

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  1. A chef friend told me that soaking them in salt water for a while helps....


    5 Replies
    1. re: GEM

      Heavily salted water-- salty enough to taste.

      This trick also works with broccoli & cauliflower fresh from the farm, although the cauliflower should probably be broken into pieces, since the worms tend to get stuck.

      1. re: Erika

        This works for any veggie. I do it to virtually everything I harvest from my garden, since I grow organically (without use of pesticides). Some things, for instance, heads of cabbage, can be so infested (without it being apparent on a casual inspection) that you just have to throw it out.

        1. re: hermitt4d

          I am a mushroom hunter, and yes, most wild mushrooms serve as homes for all kinds of critters.

          I usually cut my morels in half, wash them well, and then poor very hot water over them. I don't think I have ever seen worms in morels, but they are often absolutely FULL of little grey critters called springtails, and the hot water kills em.

          Oyster mushrooms are frequently full of white worms which are the larval stage of a black beetle. The beetles are easy to see and remove, the worms a little more difficult--rinsing with a hard stream of water works pretty well, but you really have to separate each individual gill. If you miss one or two, they won't kill you--they taste like mushroom. If the mushroom is really infested and the worms have eaten a lot of the flesh, pitch it--it will taste like worm poop.

          Broccoli and cauliflower--use bT, bacillus thuringensis, aka Dipel or Thuricide. It is a bacteria that kills caterpillars, quite organic. Works on corn earworms too, I think.

          1. re: sparrowgrass

            Curious about BT and more than a little hesitant to see anyone putting even a "organic" insecticide on their food before preparation for cooking I did a little web search and came up with the link below. The way in which the insecticidal bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis works (the worms/larvae ingest it and it is activated in their gut) it would seem that you have to apply it some time before wanting to use the food item for cooking.


            Link: http://helios.bto.ed.ac.uk/bto/microb...

      2. re: GEM

        this was recommended to me as well. I've on accasion found a few tiny white worms and this works. Before I ever started eating morels I was warned that the little nooks and crannies are likely to support bug life, so I guess this isn't very shocking to me. I mean what do you expect - they are harvested wild in the woods where lil buggies are destined to find a perfect little home in them.

      3. g

        So wait, can somebody clarify something? Should I *expect* to find these worms if I buy morels? And are these cleansing methods just for killing or are the worms somehow removed? Ick!

        1. As a tourist in Florence, I was told by the waiter that worms crawling on my mushroom bruschetta was normal....was he pulling my leg??? I couldn't make myself eat them.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Mari

            well not for nuttin', but don't the provincial italians eat some kind of weird cheese that's maggot infested?

          2. Hold on to your stomachs folks because the worms in those morels were maggots! Here's the deal. Morels are wild mushrooms; wild as in growing in the woods....the same woods where squirrels poop freely where ever they choose, and all sorts of insects live happily without fear of a can of Raid. Flies really like laying eggs on morels because the maggots have a mushroom breakfast when they hatch. So if you're still interested in eating morels, as soon as you get them home they can go into the freezer for a couple of hours or you can cook them right away. This will kill the worms. The maggots have no taste or texture when they're that small and they're not carrying any dreaded disease unlike flies because they can't buzz around yet.

            As for that bruschetta with worms....HOGWASH! Never eat wild mushrooms that have not been cooked.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Cynical Chef

              I think the rule about eating "field" gathered wild mushrooms is not to do it unless you have a compatible liver donor standing by. ;-D

            2. hmmm. i've just assumed the worms will die when I cook the mushrooms (you don't eat morels raw anyway). I've found the same worms in fresh porcini, and in cabbage and other veggies bought straight from the farm. unless i'm eating them raw. I just kind of ignore them. Is that a bad thing?

              1. Oh my gawd!!! I am so going to puke!! I am pathologically terrified/disgusted by any and every kind of bug.

                Can someone please tell me how common this is? I just ate morels on Saturday (and they were delicious) and I definitely did not inspect them very closely. Maggots may be flavorless but, so help me gawd, they will never pass thorugh my lips if I can help it.

                Seriously, I buy most of my produce at local farmers' markets and I have never noticed little white worms. Do I need to look a lot more closely? Or, like, go on a no-food, no-maggot diet?

                13 Replies
                1. re: Missy P.

                  Bugs, or bug parts, are very common in many foods, ranging form fresh fruits and vegetables, to most mass packaged foods. The FDA actually has limits on the number of various insect parts which are allowed in various food products (cereal, spices, etc.)

                  1. re: AlanH

                    Right. But there's a difference between knowing, somewhere in the back of head, that they're there, and actually SEEING them. I guess what I really want to know is--should I start looking for maggots in my mushrooms habitually? Does everyone inspect their broccoli for worms--and I just didn't know to do so?

                    1. re: Missy P.

                      As wally noted above, it is common to find worms in wild gathered mushrooms - porcini, morels, etc. Check carefully, sometimes I'll ask to cut open the porcini before buying to check for wormholes.

                      1. re: Missy P.

                        This message string reminds me of a bit by 70s head comic Chris Rush (who, I believe, is still around). He's talking about hot dogs and says that the government permits 0.0000005% rat balls in hotdogs. Nooooo.

                      2. re: AlanH

                        Some years ago I had some pine nuts and absent - mindedly put them on top of a high shelf (uncovered). A little while later I had little flies buzzing around....

                        I started checking around and sure enough, the little critters were hatching from larvae that had been in the pine nuts.

                        I keep my place spotless (no flies!) so I always wondered if the eggs were already present in the pignolas when I bought them....


                      3. re: Missy P.

                        Check your fresh mushrooms carefully when you buy them. The little worms are easy to see in morels not so easy in porcini. Have found them in both your beloved Berkeley Bowl and Monterey Market. Just be careful when purchasing.

                        1. re: Missy P.
                          Stanley Stephan

                          Thank you MissyP. You had the only sensible reaction to this ... horror.

                          I am not opposed to the occasional little green worm with the strawberries. I'll find a snail or something every now in the lettuce. I can pick these off.

                          But YUCK ... the morrels were CRAWLING with worms. Throw those things out. Check them before buying and don't buy them in the first place.

                          I don't even like worms in my apples. It just gets tossed rather than cutting around the bad parts. Yuck, yuck, yuck.

                          I know also that I've probably eaten my share of varmits in restaurants and probably unknowingly in my own produce, but knowing something is infested and then eating it ... Yikes.

                          1. re: Stanley Stephan

                            I heartily agree that horror is a most appropriate reaction! Ack, I think morels may be off the list for quite awhile!

                            1. re: linza

                              You guys are so hysterical. These things are TINY! If you don't ever want ANYTHING living in your food, have your fruits and vegetables and mushrooms produced in labs and factories and then disinfected, X-rayed and sprayed and radiated.

                              I'd rather have some tiny worms in veggies from a real farm. You can wash them off, fer chrissakes.

                          2. re: Missy P.

                            lol. relax relax. not ALL mushrooms are contaminated. just like all fruits and vegetables are not infested. just eyeball your mushrooms like brooklynmonkey did and see if you can find little holes where bugs might have bored their way inside. but please don't give up on morels because they are so delicious. maybe stick with dried ones?

                            1. re: Missy P.

                              I am on a strict no-maggot diet. I've never felt better, enegy level is great! I highly recommend the maggot-free lifestyle to everyone.

                              1. re: danna

                                I'm going to try it! I'll report back when I feel I've reached maggot-free ketosis.

                                1. re: Missy P.

                                  It's not a diet - it's a way of life.

                            2. brooklynmonkey morels are harvested from the wild and all wild mushrooms are susceptable to bugs. so far morels are one of the varieties of mushroom (along with truffles for example) that have not been able to be cultivated which explains their terrible cost. (thank g-d at least shitakes have been able to be cultivated.) when cultivated mushrooms are grown the matter in which they grow is heated and sterilized thus killing all the bugs. however my brother told me recently that white cultivated mushrooms are sprayed with all kinds of chemicals making them one of the most adulterated foods around which upsets me because i love them and in fact have a box sitting in the fridge right now. (oh well, you gotta' go sometime...)
                              ok, that's my lecture for today. thank you.
                              peace bro

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: ali b
                                Stanley Stephan

                                I love raw mushrooms on my salad. However, I always remember a tv interview with a local mushroom grower. He was explaining the processs. At the end, the interviewer asked if he liked eating mushrooms. A look of horror came over his face. He paused and said, "Occasionally cooked ... raw ...NEVER".

                              2. I have a related story about worms and cod. I was once watching the Food Network and swore that I heard Emeril say that when you are cooking with cod, don't be suprised to find worms on it. That's just the way it is, wash it off and be done with it. So, a few weeks later I made fish tacos with beer battered cod. Sure enough, there were worms on the fish so I just washed it off and kept going. My boyfriend raved about it! I later told him in passing that I was glad that I heard Emeril's advice to just wash off the worms. My boyfriend was disgusted!! So was my mom when I mentioned the story to her. To this day, I still don't know if it's normal or not, but my cod did have worms. I guess I don't understand what so right with eating cod and not worms, but then again there are a lot of things I don't understand.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Stephanie

                                  Worms in fish are quite common. Even if you catch a fresh salmon you can't eat it right away for sashimi/sushi. You have to flash freeze it to kill any microbes/worms.

                                2. i too am interested in knowing the best way to deworm a morel. so far, suggestions that have been offered are:

                                  soak morels in salty water
                                  ignore the worms
                                  freeze the morels briefly (& then presumably cook them, along with the dead, frozen worms)

                                  i am worried that soaking and freezing will compromise the flavor of these expensive shrooms. yet i don't want to eat worms. are there any other ways to deworm a morel? which is the best way?

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: queue

                                    As far as I know all morels should be soaked before cooking--for just a few minutes in warm-ish water. Maybe that's an anti-worm precaution and I never realized it. Ugh.

                                  2. This thread reminds me of a funny story.

                                    A few years ago, I lived in a "cooperative living" situation in Brooklyn. Five adults living together, sharing the cooking, cleaning and shopping.

                                    Anyway, one of my housemates would grow lettuce every year but wouldn't use pesticides - not even the natural "organic" sort. The lettuce would become infested with aphids. Aphids everywhere. And, of course, he didn't wash the lettuce very well when he made salad. So, the first time I ever ate his salad from the garden, I noticed some sort of green thing moving across my plate. Then another. Then another. I lifted up a piece lettuce and there were twenty aphids.

                                    I petitioned at the next house meeting to have stricter lettuce cleaning standards. And, got used to eating aphids.

                                    1. All I can say is YUCK.

                                      If you're paranoid and don't mind the change in texture, take a spoon and scoop out all the gills from your mushroom.

                                      1. Extract worms. Cook separately.