Thursday, April 30, 2009

Shrooms!

When it became clear last fall that we had an abundance of fabulous fungi around here, I started hoping that some of them would turn out to be morels. Well, sing hallelujah, they're out there!

OK, so we've only spotted this one so far. But where there's one, there must be others. And if it ever stops raining, we'll go hunting in earnest.

Morel Mushroom

For those who may not know, the morel is a delectable little morsel of a mushroom found in the woods in spring. I had heard about them all my life, but had never found or tasted one until this week.

The hubby and I were out poking around, he prospecting for firewood and me hunting for wildflowers to photograph. From up on the path: "Hey Vic, look at this thing." He always spots the neatest stuff, so I hustled over, took one look, and stopped dead in my tracks. You coulda heard the angel choir from a mile away. Oh yeah baby, that's a morel!

We left it there while we finished our expedition, intending to pick it on the way back. However, our son was away that day. We knew he'd be interested too, so we noted the spot and waited a day. (They spoil quickly once picked.)

I ended up on Sunday afternoon scrounging around the pasture path in the rain looking for the thing. But it was worth it.

Yellow Morel Mushroom

My sources say that morels are to be washed in cold water, sliced, and sauteed in a little butter. A dash of salt, and that's it. Our morel was maybe three inches tall, if that, and they're hollow, so we aren't talking a lot of meat here. Once cooked, there was only enough for one little taste for each of us. We gathered around the plate with salad forks, laughing at the silliness of it all, and divvied up our prize. (Picture the fossa pack in the movie Madagascar gathered around the salad bowl, tossing and salivating over the littlest lemur.)

The mushroom lives up to its reputation. The flavor is intense, like no other mushroom I've tasted. The texture is fresher, with none of the rubbery quality of button mushrooms or portabellas.

I can see now why people hunt them so eagerly, and why the best spots are closely guarded secrets. Our place fits the description of likely places for them to grow, and I'm hoping the woods will yield a few more of these little gems.


Click Here: Nature Notes.

11 comments:

Greyscale Territory said...

This is utterly fascinating! I have never seen this before nor knew it could be cooked! Fantastic post!

MyMaracas said...

Greyscale, I'm happy that you enjoyed it! This is the only wild mushroom I would ever dare to pick and eat. Nothing else looks exactly like a morel, with it's honeycomb top and hollow interior, so there's no chance of ending up with a plateful of poison.

moosh said...

Yum Yum I had a morel once it was great. Hope you find more.

ramblingwoods.com said...

Oh my..mushroom picking for real!! It must have been so much fun to be able to eat what you pick yourself. OK..You did it again..Now I have to see what fungi are around here. I took some photos last summer and looked to see if I could ID then at some mushroom site...Another area to explore thanks to you...Michelle

JC said...

Interesting. And how you've made the experience so much more exciting... very well done! I've been enjoying your nature notes, as well... very good work!

smallpines.com said...

Morrels are some pretty freaky looking things! LOL I'm working on a production of "Little Shop of Horrors" right now, and they totally reminded me of the giant plant. Really neat post. I think a lot of what is out there for the picking simply gets ignored. Sorry I haven't been able to check in as much with getting ready for the move!

Carver said...

That's a beautiful mushroom and it sounds great. I love mushrooms but I've never had the nerve to learn how to spot the safe ones. The only morels I've had were very expensive and store bought.

Martha said...

Really fascinating and great photos too! Martha :-)

ChrisC and JonJ said...

I have never seen anything like that before.I would never have the nerve to eat one that I picked tho.

Kiva said...

I learn so much when I come over here. Are they native to your area or can they be found all over?

MyMaracas said...

Hi everyone! Thanks for your interest and for your comments!

In reply, the morels are found all over North America, in rich soil in wooded areas. In West Virginia, they are known as "Molly Moochers".

Dead or dying elm and apple trees are favorite hosts. They supposedly grow in groups, though we didn't see any others around this one. They're very hard to spot among the leaves. And they're only there for a week or two in the spring.

Morels can be grey to yellow, with the yellow ones the most prized.

This is the only mushroom I would pick wild. There is only one other mushroom that looks even a little like a morel, and those aren't hollow, so identification is easy. They do have to be cooked, though, or they'll upset your stomach. And you can't drink alcohol with them.