In case you went to visit someone in Iowa this past weekend and didn't notice, we weren't home. Instead, thousands of abandoned vehicles, ATV's and bicycles were abandoned along roads, bridges, brushy draws and ditches. Their drivers weren't slumped at the wheel but slouched and walking through the woods with plastic bags clutched in their hands. They weren't blood-sucking zombies but have been taken over by the morel madness.
After the Sunday church service in which I possibly issued a prayer plea for a bumper crop of those little yellow and gray delicacies, we drove down to the farm and gathered our strength over a lunch of pasta and an early birthday cake for Little Abbey. Then we hopped into the Polaris Ranger ATV and headed off with plastic sacks in hand.
Our first stop at the Cooley farm has been a regular stop of ours since we quit finding mushrooms at the Wellen farm. Mushrooms tend to grow underneath dead elm trees, a.k.a. mushroom machines, and after the Dutch Elm Trees wiped all of them out on the Wellen farm, we had to move elsewhere. At the Cooley farm we have discovered something different. There, the mushrooms tend to cluster near silver maple trees and are scattered along the banks of a small creek that flows through a draw. The ones along the creek don't seem to concentrate under any particular type of tree so they make up for it by just growing to enormous sizes that makes them easier to spot.
Within half an hour, all three of us had our bags completely full and had to head back to the ATV. Searching through it, we found a larger plastic bag among the dash debris and decided to head off to another mushroom spot on the Order farm. There we found a few morels but not as many. It is an early season place and with the cold spring weather the previous couple weeks, mushroom season had been compressed to just one week. This Sunday was probably the tail end of the season. While climbing out of a draw by a huge old black cherry tree that I have used for years to pull myself up a particularly steep section while mushrooming and which the wind had recently blown over, we saw that the inside had been hollowed out. Nestled inside and seeming very crowded were at least three baby raccoons waiting for their mother to return. Since it was three o'clock in the afternoon and raccoons being nocturnal animals, I have no idea where she was.
Back home with around five pounds of fresh morel mushrooms, we were in heaven. Since my parents had that many already soaking in their refrigerator at home, my wife and I took the latest haul back home with us and after an hour of cleaning them, I had three large tubs of them in our refrigerator. Last night we grilled some ribeye steaks that I ate with a morel mushroom and coconut milk gravy that my wife made and had some breaded morels to eat with it on the side. I'm having leftovers of that for lunch today and tonight, I will fry up a bunch more for supper. Perhaps tomorrow, I will pack a morel sandwich to take to work and I'm sure we will be having sautéed morels in scrambled eggs or omelets pretty soon. I'm not crazy. I just have the morel madness.