I know it’s not exactly the wording of one of the original 10, but I know that falls in under the Commandment of not coveting the neighbors’ goods. And the guilt I’m feeling is letting me know that it is certainly wrong to be feeling as jealous as I am of the pictures of goodies that seemingly countless morel mushroom hunters have been posting so liberally across their social media pages.
Ah, the morel! Have you ever tasted them? Or gotten to go “hunting” for them? The activity of searching for morels should probably be termed “fishing.” After all, another common name the locals have bestowed on this delectable fungus is “dry land fish.” It certainly would fit right in with a plate of delicious seafood!
What is this “morel” that I’m going on about? It’s found in spring, usually in wooded areas. It tends to come back in the same places for a few years and then be gone. Some hunters swear that they are found more often on a protected slope, usually near a particular type of tree. Some folks think the areas around elm trees are conducive to the spawning of these treats. Others say sycamore or ash trees. Wherever they are found, one must have patience and a keen eye. They are many times half hidden amongst dried up leaves from the prior fall and blend in well with the landscape.
Morels are quite distinctive looking, resembling an elongated, large spore sponge. There are also species with the name “false morels” but I don’t think they look much like the edible morel. Persons new to mushroom hunting would be prudent to avail themselves of the company of an expert hunter who can verify any finds and teach how to distinguish between species.
Morels can be dried and added to soups later. They can be eaten cooked right after harvesting as well. I recommend soaking them in salt water for a few hours first, unless you don’t mind the extra protein that occasionally accompanies mushrooms. Bugs love these mushrooms, too and can bore through, hiding out in your newfound prize. I personally prefer dipping them in an egg mixture, lightly coating in a flour and cornmeal mix, and then sauteeing them. Any time you are trying a new mushroom that an expert has confirmed is safe for consumption, limit yourself on how much of it you consume. A mushroom deemed safe for most people can occasionally cause gastric upset in others.
How do I know this? I’d heard this before from old-timers. Did I pay it much mind when a friend of mine brought me some “chicken of the woods” mushrooms? I’d never found them myself, but I’d heard of them. They were SO delicious! In fact, I made a whole meal out of them. And I suffered gastric distress such as I have never known for the next 24 hours. What was I thinking? I wasn’t! I WON’T repeat that mistake – that’s for sure! Best way to learn a lesson…
The season is actually coming to a close and I’ve not been out to hunt this year. It’s not looking good for that happening, either. So, I’ll keep trying to keep my jealousy in check when I behold others’ proud finds. I’m happy for them – I really am! But does anybody out there know of any “sweet spots” out there that need a little harvesting? I know the answer to my question already. Those secrets are guarded more closely than the gold in Fort Knox.
Feel free to let me know if you find any yourself sometime. Or if you’ve ever been lucky enough to have gone mushroom hunting. They are definitely a treasure worth searching for!