Thursday, April 27, 2006

Morel mushrooms: Hunt, hunt, pick

Morel mushrooms are fairly new to me. I never ate them or recall hearing about them until well into adulthood.

Just google “morel mushrooms” and you’ll see what a fanatical world this is. In value and popularity, they are akin to the beloved French truffle.

Well, not quite. I’ve seen morel mushrooms for sale at $36-66 per pound. French truffles can go for hundreds, even thousands, of dollars per pound.

I have had French truffles IN things, like the liver paté with truffles running through the middle we received for a gift last year. Yum. I’ll bet that cost a bit. Whatever the comparison, all I know is I LOVE them both, and morel mushrooms are here in Michigan. So I’ll “make do” with morels.

Our first April on the farm (2004) Don found a handful of morels near the pond in the back property. I found none.

Our second April here (2005) Don found another "handful" in the side yard under some trees, but each mushroom was almost as big as my hand! Again, I found none.

Both years Don soaked them in salted water, dried them off, then ASAP (within a day or two) floured and sautéd them in butter with lots of salt and pepper. A festival for the taste buds! (Sorry, Amy, I know you don’t like mushrooms! Bummer!) Finding only a few on our property and not wanting to pay $45/lb., we really savored this treat. These were my first morels to eat!

Morels soaking in salted water for a few minutes to remove dirt and critters

This week, the time they start popping up in Southern Michigan, we began the morel hunt on our 5 acres. No luck for several days though we looked in several areas. Then last evening, after a very cool night (28F), we went out to look, not really expecting anything since the best conditions are for night temps above 40F. So imagine my delight when I stepped on a patch of them before noticing them! (No worries, these are tough little guys that don't smush easily like some mushrooms.) Under the big old apple tree in the woods, my first morel find!

They look like tiny canteloupe

I would compare the feeling of ecstasy to that at the birth of my children. I ran to the house to a) get a grocery bag for the hundreds we would find (we actually found 47), and b) set “American Idol” to “record” so we could hunt and pick morels without missing who was going to be booted this week. (We picked Pickler, and we were right.)

I will be a bit late getting home this evening, and needless to say, I have asked Don very politely not to go out hunting until I get home. I have a feeling he will scout and maybe mark patches if he finds them. But I KNOW he won’t pick any until I get there.

Hunting and finding are almost as good as eating, and they round out the experience. What a glorious and spontaneous gift from Mother Earth.

We’ll do the eating this evening after the hunt. We did not eat yesterday’s find last night since we'd already eaten supper when we began our hunt, so we know we at least have 47 morels to eat for supper. And maybe nothing else, except a glass of cabernet sauvignon. Priceless.

The largest morel from yesterday was about 2 inches. The smallest less than an inch.


Peter said...

I could go for one right now!!

Ruth said...

come on over tonight, bo.

dreamwalker said...

I have never heard of Morel mushrooms...but LOVE every type of mushroom I have ever tried.

"They look like tiny canteloupeI would compare the feeling of ecstasy to that at the birth of my children."

And now I just have to go out and find myself some no matter what the cost...they are obviously taste bud heaven :)

Half the pleasure has to come from the hunt, and the fact that they are your very own 'home grown' Morels.

dreamwalker said...

Forgot to add..I love the visuals. Wrinkly looking little delights aren't they :)

Ruth said...

DW: I wonder what types of mushrooms you have in NZ that I haven't heard of. :) I wonder if you can find morels there! If you do, let me know. I wonder if you can find them to order online?

Yes, they are so funny looking. Also, their texture is rubbery, but when cooked, so tender and fabulous.

Wish you could join us for supper!

Don said...

I went out again after work today and looked in the first place I ever found them and found three good ones! I decided to disobey and pick them as I didn't know if I would ever find them again,(at least that is what my story will be). The forest floor provides an excellent hiding place! If you can, you need to come out and hunt for them. It is ok if you don't find any, because you get to go for a walk in the woods. Today I saw bluebirds, a big, fat bumblebee walking on water and heard baby racoons fighting inside a hollow tree. What's so bad about that?

dreamwalker said...

That sounded like a description of heaven :)

You've probably seen this site?

Ruth said...

After Don found 3 and went inside to start dinner (which turned out to be more than just morels), I got home and hunted and found 23 more!

And BTW, I really hope no one thinks I seriously was more ecstatic finding mushrooms than I was when my babies were born. :| It's called hyperbole, people.

Just like my mother, I just can't be funny.

Ruth said...

DW, I hadn't been to that particular site. Cool!

Ruth said...

DW, that is a great site, and I love his article. Could it be because he's an English teacher??

dreamwalker said...

I'm sure people wont misunderstand, I certainly took it as humourously meant :)

I'm glad you like the site; and yes, ofcourse its because he's an English teacher. Heh!
(Now I'm worrying about my grammar and spelling:))

Ginnie said...

I'm totally loving all these comments, Ruth, et al! And what a fun link, DW! Actually, while I was reading all of this it reminded me of exactly how I felt about finding sand dollars in California years ago. The same kind of experience. And it IS better than the birth of our kids because there's no pain :) (HA)

You know, Ruth, I esp. liked the hyperbole comment you made about Mom. Ohhhh. We sure liked to make fun of her being so superlative, didn't we. I think of it now and ponder how much better it was than the alternative!

I'm so glad you have your farm!!

Ruth said...

DW, I embedded the morel expert site in the post title.

Glad you didn't misunderstand the ecstatic comparison.

Don't worry about grammar and spelling. Just because my sister and I are anal about OUR OWN grammar and spelling (what comes of being raised by our mother, an English teacher), it does not follow that we give two hoots about anyone else's! Now that's speaking for myself, and not necessarily Ginnie/Boots. But I suspect she may feel the same. Not that I've ever noticed anything wrong with yours!!

Ruth said...

Ginnie: Glad you're on the ground! Welcome home! (But I think Hannover is also a second "home"?)

Great comparison to finding sand dollars, even though I have not experienced that joy.

Man, I miss Mom right now. Wouldn't she have an incredible blog?? Oh my goodness. What WOULDN'T she be able to write about!

Rachel said...

OK, I just wanna know, what happens when you pick the mushrooms? How are they supposed to reproduce and replenish so that next year there will be even more to pick?

It seems like if you pick them all, they will not be able to spread. Do you leave at least one in every bunch to do it's thing?

Mei Shile said...

I am also an addict of wild mushrooms. I was in the local mycologist club for some time. You have them early in Michigan! We won't have morels in Southern Québec before mid-June.

Ruth said...

Rachel, you're so right. a) pinch off the mushroom so the root remains. b) use a mesh bag to carry the mushrooms you've picked so the spores spread (I wonder about this one; these don't seem to be the type to have spores, but what do I know?), and c) leave about 1/3 of them unpicked.

mei shile, wow, so late! Do you pick them every year?

Mrs. M. said...

Oh, come on, did no one think G'ma was funny when she cut hard boiled eggs her own "special" way for devilled eggs?

G'ma cracked me up! I think it was the expressions on her face...kind of a "you've got to be kidding me...not again" look.

(sigh)she would've LOVED the internet. All that information at her fingertips!

rachel said...

Ahhh, thanks! Now I know the secret:)

belle said...

Wow...I read some of your entries. I likes very much.
You know, my dad and his wife grow mushrooms at their house and they are very tasty. I used to hate them...but now we are becoming good friends... :)

This is Michelle, by the way... better known as "MA-Shell"

Hayden said...

grew up in Michigan. discovered morels about the time I left. luckily had friends that brought me huge quanitities... (they were SO NOT POPULAR then...)

now, adrift, more atuned to asian mushrooms than midwestern, I still remember, and buy a few pricey specimens when I can. lovely with pasta and fresh spring peas and cream enough to bind them but not run.....just a kiss of cream to carry the flavor....

Rauf said...

For some strange reason I have avoided mushrooms all my life Ruth.
I have tasted them a couple of times.

Very delightful pictures Ruth.

Donica said...

Oh Ruth (& Don)-what an amazing story. I love every mushroom I have ever tasted. And, I'm with you Ruth-truffles are at the top of the list but morels are a very near second. I will have to start looking for them in Germany since their spring appears to coincide with yours. Of course I will be looking on restaurant menus and not in the woods. ;)

Mei Shile said...

It depends. I have a place to pick them but there are very few ones and not every year. Up to now, I have not been able to find another place.

Ruth said...

mrs. m., I forgot that deviled egg story. Yes, G'ma was a riot, and because she was also so brilliant, I don't think we quite knew how to mix the two. I don't know that she FELT the admiration we all had for her, because perhaps we didn't express it well and often.

Ruth said...

Rachel, I appreciate your horticultural curiosity.

Ruth said...

belle/Ma-shell! How fun to have you here! Wow, your dad & his wife grow them, eh? I've heard there are kits . . .

When do you move to Idaho??

Ruth said...

hayden, that recipe sounds perfect and worth a try. We've had so few, we haven't tried them any way other than sauteed alone.

Ruth said...

rauf, I'm glad you like the photos. I understand the avoidance of mushrooms. Texture and taste: either love 'em or hate 'em. I wonder what amazing varieties India has with its hot temps.

Ruth said...

donica, I hope you can find them in Germany (or Belgium, or the Netherlands, or . . . ). Now I'm wondering just how many countries are fertile ground for morels! Must do more research.

Welcome back to Atlanta!

Ruth said...

mei shile, I hope that doesn't happen to us. After our initial finds of 47 and then 26, there have been only a couple more. But the conditions also have not been prime. It's supposed to rain tonight, so tomorrow morning could be fruitful!