Note: Dozens of morels WERE harmed (and consumed) in the making of this blog post.
That seasonal madness that hits this part of the world in spring has finally ended. I came staggering from the woods with bags full of mushrooms and headed home to pick off stray ticks and to dream of feasts to come. In all, we had seven and a half gallons of cleaned mushrooms, three and a half have already been consumed as of this writing and perhaps maybe five will be by the time this posts. It was a good year for morel mushrooms.
We went down to the family farm on Mother's Day to celebrate the day by going mushrooming. To me, it seems like the perfect way to tell mom you love her. Although my daughter 'found' some mushrooms last year if we guided her in the right area and did the old hot/cold routine, this year she actually found some on her own. I'm so proud of her. Her patience for tramping for hours in the woods is not quite what it needs to be but she will get there.
It is hard to teach the art of finding morels. I can teach how to find a mushroom machine which is a recently dead elm tree with dozens of mushrooms growing underneath. One only must know what an elm tree looks like and see that it died last year sometime. Teaching to find morels outside of the reaches of a dying elm however is a much harder art to teach. Sometimes I've found them under living silver maple trees but most often times not. Sometimes I've found them in a grove of young boxelder trees but most times not. Many of the mushrooms I find are just there, out in the open in a place that only experience can tell you they are there. I sense the mushrooms many times before I ever see one. I just know that I'm in the right area, the ground cover looks perfect, the amount of sunlight reaching down through the leaves is perfect, the slope of the ground is perfect. It just feels right so I will stop, slowly scan the ground and more often than not, will find wild morels popping out of the ground.
They are not easy to see and blend into the ground cover which is why I miss many of them. Sometimes I find them recovering the ground on the way back to where I came from, other times my wife will sneak behind me and find them but most of the time, they probably remain behind, dry up and spread their goodness for next year. At least I hope they do.
Back home, we soak them in old ice cream buckets and salty water to kill any bugs though this year's crop has been bug free. Then we rinse them and consume them. My favorite way is to lightly bread them with a little flour and Parmesan cheese and fry them. But I will often saute them in a little butter and serve them over burgers, steaks or just about any meat for that extra BAM. Once when we found mushrooms as far as the eye could see in a young boxelder grove, we dehydrated pounds of extras and used them in recipes for the next couple years. However, I've never since been able to find that many and thus we consume what we pick. A couple days ago, I had a mushroom sandwich with a bit of dijon mustard with some leftovers not eaten from the fry the night before. Life is good. Since we have quite a few this year, probably more than we can eat but not enough to bother with dehydrating, I've been contemplating making a wild morel mushroom soup of some sort.
Soon they will be gone and the last of those spores will be consumed by my body and life will return to normal again. It is hard to believe that I've been hunting and eating those things for over three decades now, soon to be four decades. I can't imagine life without morels. I'm certain it wouldn't be worth living in such a world!