Have you no morals? Thou shalt not covet…thy neighbors’ morels!

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.

“True” morels – delicious!

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.

False Morel - interesting to look at but NOT meant to be eaten!

False Morel – interesting to look at but NOT meant to be eaten!

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!

A “sorrelful” post – it might leave a sour taste in your mouth

I just couldn’t help myself!  Wood sorrel is another wild edible found in many yards and wooded areas that makes itself known in spring.  It has beautiful, heart-shaped leaves arrange in threes.  Typically, the type that I find in most abundance has a yellow blossom, but white blossoms are common as well.  There are even types with a pink blossom, but I haven’t found those in my area.

This is a great plant for the beginning forager.  It is easily recognizable, and there isn’t a poisonous look-a-like.  It’s quite distinctive in appearance, so much so that I introduced my children to this at a very early age with no concerns.

It is very sour because it contains high levels of oxalic acid, and consuming huge amounts of it would be inadvisable – oxalic acid, in large amounts, would interfere with the body being able to absorb calcium.  That could be fatal. Small amounts, added into salads for an extra “zing” are perfectly safe and very tasty.  If you like teas with a “lemony” flavor, try pouring boiling water over some sorrel for a tasty, healthful tea.  Wood sorrel (or “sour grass” as it is commonly called) is full of Vitamin C as well.

The flowers make little seed pods once the blossoms have expired.  These are what the kids go after!  They’re a little package of sourness!  And they’re just fun to find and eat.

I’m attaching a photo of one of my very healthy plants that has taken up residence in one of the pots I usually plant vegetables into.  Since it’s been quite cool here yet, I haven’t planted them and have allowed the sorrel to remain. There’s enough growing wild that one wouldn’t have to cultivate it, although I kind of like the idea – the neighbors think I’m weird, anyway.

Would you mind passing the dandelions?

I think some of my friends wonder if I was in danger of starvation during my childhood, or after a quick glance, many people just might wonder if I’m plain old hungry and want to eat everything in sight.  Neither is true.  I’m just fascinated with the fact that there are weeds (and other wild “goodies” ) that are healthy edibles – an alternative to the grocery and even one’s garden for adding to the table.

Growing up in the country, it was just a part of my upbringing to learn about these things and to have them incorporated into our diet.  When I left home, I moved into the suburbs with my “city boy” husband and have found that there are still edibles to be found in one’s own yard.  Of course, if the yard is kept very manicured and the weeds are eliminated, that’s another matter.  Mine is not one of the manicured ones, and I enjoy using the “weeds” that happily grow there.

I think that the kids sometimes eye the salad, wondering if I’ve snuck something unusual in, but there are some things that they love.  For instance, sassafras tea is a favorite of theirs, and they love eating the pods off of “sourgrass” or wood sorrel.

Dandelion fritters is another wild dish they enjoy.  It’s just dandelion flowers dipped in an egg wash, dredged in a seasoned flour/cornmeal mixture, and then fried.  They are tasty and packed with vitamins.  Plus, it’s fun to run around picking those bright yellow flowers!

Dandelion greens and buds are also wonderful, if picked young, used as a raw salad green or cooked as a “pot herb.” I like to saute mine, but they can also be boiled.  They are slightly bitter, but the younger they are picked, the less bitter the taste.  They are full of vitamin C and other vitamins, as well as several minerals, including magnesium and iron.

There are so many plants that are usable in your kitchen right in your very own yard.  Whether you want to try foraging for yourself, or would just like to read about others who do, I invite you to come along with me on the adventure!