My Spring Fling: Morels
I adore mushrooms. I love everything about them: the way they smell, the way they taste, the way they look. Well, I suppose none of that brackety shelf fungi will be winning any beauty contests, and the same goes for huitlacoche (corn fungus that looks disGUSting), but chanterelles are pretty cute. I love that mushrooms convert decay into something more palatable. Nature can be so brutal and yet so simultaneously awesome. Unfortunately, I have a little mushroom digestion problem that prevents me from going too far overboard, but trust me when I say I love them more than you do. Just don’t make me prove it.
While most mushroom-hunting takes place in the fall, the most prized wild mushroom of all, the morel, grows in the spring. That means right now (at least in northern climes), so pay attention to your surroundings. Though I have yet to ever find a morel in the wild, I love a good scavenger hunt. Morels are fickle, in case you haven’t heard. The clues I’ve gathered in my research are to look on north-facing slopes, by dead elm trees, in old apple orchards, near skunk cabbage, and in the path of last year’s forest fires. That narrows things down a bit. So far, I haven’t gotten past my own backyard. I live on a north-facing slope, you see. With a crabapple tree. There might be some elms, too. They’re not dead, to my knowledge, but I could kill them. And I’m not above setting fire to the whole lot if that’s what it’s going to take. It might get rid of the poison ivy, at least.
I’ve just been sitting out here on my hill waiting for the morels to show up and I figure one of two things is going to happen. A morel might sprout up by my feet and I’ll find it. (And where there’s one, there’s likely to be more.) OR Husband will just go to the store and bring some home, and then yell up the hill to me so I come back inside. You know, whatever works.
If the idea of foraging for fungi sounds remotely appealing to you, Civil Eats has a good introductory post on the elusive morel. Another post up at Leslie Land goes into a bit more detail. Susan from Farmgirl Fare found some on her Missouri farm, that lucky duck. And I remember Brilynn’s Jumbo Empanadas post last year where she recalled childhood memories of foraging for morels with her family in Canada.
Now, let’s just assume that you’ve been out consorting with nature all day and you’ve somehow managed to hit the jackpot with not only a bushel of wild mushrooms, but a bushel of NON-POISONOUS wild mushrooms. Or you just go to the store. However it happens, here are a few ideas for how you can use them:
Sautéed morels with fava beans by Apple Pie, Patis, & Pate
Cream of wild mushroom soup by Simply Recipes
Or just sautéed in butter with asparagus as we’re wont to do at my house.
Any other morel-seeking tips to share? In my neck of the woods, preferably. (With a detailed map.)
Tammy Donroe can also be found documenting the messy collision between food and life on her blog, Food on the Food.