Monday, May 5, 2008

MORELS!

That first bite was heavenly. The next dozen were too. I started out with the bottom half of a large onion hamburger bun, grilled Angus beef, a slice a cheese, a large pile of morel mushrooms sautéed in a little butter, and topped it with the other half of the bun. Delicious.

Saturday I had to pick my brother up at the airport and run him down to the farm for the week. After his horrible accident last fall where he shattered his lower leg and ankle into well over 50 fragments, it was great to see him walking again, even if he walked like his bad leg had fallen asleep in the airplane. He was walking and that is all that matters to me. But his plane was late and we decided to stop for lunch at a tiny town along the river road of the Mississippi where the best burgers in the world could be found. By the time we got home, it was growing late so we just talked with the parents for a few minutes and I left for my home but not before they gave me a small plastic bag with a small mess or gray morels they had found on Wednesday.

Sunday after church, I brought the girls and we drove down to the farm for a family meal and of course, mushroom hunting. Within perhaps two seconds of stepping into the wooded draw, the shouts of found mushrooms were being heard so I knew it was going to be a good year. Mrs. Abbey won the prize, which is nothing more than honor, of finding the first morel. I was pushing Little Abbey in her all terrain strollers through the woods over sticks, logs, and such so I was greatly handicapped. None-the-less, I was still able to find a small mess around a dead elm tree before we exited and drove over to another draw that we hunt.

There, for the first time in perhaps fifteen years, we didn't find any morels under the large silver maple at the head of the draw. We never understood why they grew there in the first place but it was sad not to find them. Down the draw aways with Little Abbey being pushed around by Grandpa, I found a prime elm that was newly dead and the bark hadn't even started to peel off. At the base, I found morels and lots of them. A mushroom machine! As far as mushroom machines go, it was on the light end of the spectrum but I still found around twenty or so morels scattered out here and there.

On around the corner, I headed for my other favorite spot there. It is a gradual north facing slope down by the creek populated with knee high buck brush that for another unexplained reason to me, always seems to produce big lunkers of morel mushrooms. There aren't any trees in this area, dead elm or otherwise in this area. There are two more spots along the draw that are exactly like this in my eyes, north facing, no trees, knee high buck brush and they don't produce morels. Only this one does. I stepped just a couple steps into the buck brush and saw a morel, then another, and another, and so on. I walked the entire twenty feet stopping repeatedly to pick another specimen and then turned around and walked back.

Being partially green colorblind, finding morels is harder for me than others and I often miss a few. So it was no shock when I quickly found another half dozen, including one that would take the family prize, again just honor, for finding the biggest one, a yellow morel topping the charts at a mere five inches tall. I've found some before that were around 12 inches tall so they do get much bigger but this is still early in the season for yellows, and in a few days, I'm sure there will be larger ones being found everywhere.

Twenty minutes later, I had my bag completely full of mushrooms. It is a mesh bag that is tailored for morel mushrooms to allow the 100 spores per centimeter in a morel, fall out onto the ground as the air gently dries the mushroom and ensure that future years will produce large crops. Whenever I see an elm tree still not dying from the elm disease that afflicts most of the United States, I always swirl my bag through the air around the base a few times making sure it gets a good dose of morel spores. Hopefully when the Dutch elm disease takes over in a few years, the spores will feed on the release of toxins from the roots of the dying tree and produce a Mushroom Machine!

We still had several places left to go but my brother was already pushing his leg to the max and our bags were full so we went home. After the loot was cleaned and divided, we ended up taking around three pounds of packed mushrooms home with us. That should be enough to last us for the rest of the week if we eat on them every evening. I sautéed the first handful in some butter and would have added garlic if we hadn't been out. They topped our hamburgers as I mentioned at the beginning of this post and were delicious. At last, morel season is here!

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