Guess what time of year it is here in the midwest?
Well, aside from spring and planting and green things and warm sunshine and sitting on the deck enjoying a cold beverage, of course.
It’s morel mushroom season and they are popping up everywhere.
Last season my mushroom hunting efforts failed. Not a single morel did I find, most likely because I went a week too late. Oh, I found plenty of mushrooms: Shelf mushrooms, black mushrooms, delicate little orange mushrooms, fairy ring mushrooms… none of them edible to my knowledge.
My knowledge of edible fungi is limited exclusively to the morel. It’s easy to identify and can’t be confused with a poisonous variety.
I prefer to remain alive after I enjoy a mushroom meal, so, I stay in my mushroom hunting comfort zone with the morel.
I grew up eating these spongy, delicate things sauteed in butter and garlic after soaking all night in salt water. There are all kinds of delicious ways to cook up a batch of freshly found mushrooms, but I’ve only had them simply sauteed or dipped in batter and fried. The worst thing about them? Ants like ’em just as much as we do and it’s not uncommon to find one of these fleshy fungi full of ants, but, a shake and a soak gets rid of the ants.
Hunting for morels is a lot of fun, it’s kind of like being on an Easter egg hunt, but instead of standing out brightly against the background like Easter eggs do, the quarry instead blends very well and can be a challenge to spot, especially for untrained eyes. Besides, who doesn’t enjoy a walk in the woods on a gorgeous spring day? Not only do you get the chance to find some edible wild food, but the wildlife is out and the wild flowers are blooming in profusion.
Once you spot them, heaven! I’ve been known to do little dances of joy when I find a patch of morels. That’s how delicious they are and how exciting it is to be able to gather your own food. Remember to gather those mushrooms in a mesh bag so as you hunt for more you can spread the spores from the already plucked ‘shrooms to new areas for gathering next year.
Around here there are legendary morel gathering spots that are kept a closely guarded secret by their finders. These mushrooms are so valuable (they sell for over $100 per pound in season) and the season so short that good gathering spots are never revealed.
You can bet I’ll never tell where I find my morels!
But I’ll definitely share my find with you, cooked up deliciously, maybe served with a side of fried catfish, a salad of fresh greens from the garden and a cold beer, enjoyed on the deck under the warm spring sun.