Thursday, April 30, 2009

Morel Mushroom Season

It's Morel season. Here in Ohio Morel mushrooms pop up in the woods during the months of April and May. Old Shroomers look forward to it every year. They all have their "secret spots" where they know Morels are likely to grow, and most would endure waterboarding before revealing their location.

Morels are a very tasty spring time treat. One of the few things left in this world that are still seasonal, rare, and special. Some great recipes can be found here.

Hunting for Morels is an art. It's like searching for treasure. They grow in the woods and only in very moist soil. Look for May Apples in bloom growing near rotted wood on the forest floor. Apple, Elm and Poplar trees are favorite clues for trained shroom hunters.

Julie Zickefoose hunts morels on her 80-acre nature preserve near Whipple Ohio. She writes about her priate like passion on NPR's website:

The morel organism is a huge underground system called a mycelium, which is made up of connected fungal strands and clods that can cover acres. It can live for decades, but it doesn't put forth fruit every year. What we see aboveground — those hollow, rubbery, wrinkled manifestations — are just the fruiting bodies of the ancient, secret creature living deep beneath the ground.

We pick ours into a mesh onion bag, and we swing it like a censer as we walk, hoping that we're spreading precious spores as we go. Back home, we rinse them briefly, then sprinkle the holy wash water back where we found them, completing a ritual of thanks to the fungus that feeds us.

Picking morels feels like stealing treasure from the rich soil; cutting their firm, shapely forms into little wheels is a sensual pleasure. A rich, peaty smell rises up from them. When butter begins to bubble in the pan, you drop the mushrooms in, and the liquid pours out of them. They're tender in moments, and you must remove them while you reduce the sauce. A dash of white wine, a tiny dollop of mustard, green onions and a whomp of sour cream; salt to taste, and you return the little wheels to their sauce, drizzling them over rice, pasta or meat.

Morels fairly explode with complex flavor, with woodsy, earthy, mysterious notes.

They taste like nothing else on Earth; they're in a class with truffles and caviar. And best of all, they're free.

If you decide to give Morel hunting a try, do a little research first, or go with an experienced shroomer, because the "false morel" is a similar looking mushroom that grows in the same conditions and while some people tolerate it well, it ha been known to make others very sick.


Rebecca Anne said...

I've only gone mushroom hunting once in my life and I admit, I loved it! Your right, like looking for treasure. Now, I' craving mushrooms for tonights dinner.
I hope you are well,

Ange said...

Tom and Jack came home with about thirty or so. Fried in butter...boy, oh boy.
Gonna have to forward that link of recipes to my in-laws.

Maureen McCabe said...

I have never gone mushroom hunting or even eaten morels. I was reading Wisconsin blogs and wondering if we had morels here in Ohio.

Kel-Bell said...

Oh yes, we have lots of Morels here in Ohio. I have been out about six times this year, and found patches on every trip but one.

Gabriele Caruso said...

Can't go hunting for mushrooms but Can I buy them in the market?
loved you recipes. will try them on other mushrooms.

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Hey Kelley. Are you still here? Trying to make my way back to the old blog, as I don't think I get to be myself 100% on Facebook. Let me know where to find you. I miss our old exchanges. :)

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