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Sunday, April 25, 2010

morel alchemy

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Joy! There's gold in these here woods! At the end of April here on the farm we start hunting for until-now buried treasure: morel mushrooms. Although they look like it, they aren't brains, or Prometheus' liver, but they do grow again overnight, as big as the palm of your hand in a few hours. At the first silver of morning, we slip into jackets and farm shoes and out to the fallen apple tree, and to the woods by the pond, to comb the grass (and new poison ivy shoots if we're not careful) like Sherlock Holmes.

Morel mushroom cells don't reproduce. These fruits of the mycelium organism under the surface of the ground expand with water, which is why they appear after rain storms. They have the same number of cells when they're big Titan thumbs as they did when they were tinier than a baby's toenail and sprouted from mycelium legs underground.


These filigree toes magically dig up through the woodsy soil into the air where we pinch them from their lacy underground body - sort of like that eagle snatching poor Prometheus' liver, then carefully tuck them into deep pockets, empty them onto the kitchen table, bugs and all, soak them in salt water, throw out the bugs, toss the preciousness in flour, and sauté until the filigree turns to gold.

Morel season is just a couple of weeks, and I can't bear to add them to any other food and lose a single sliver of their identity. Sautéed in butter (or in our case, Earth Balance soy margarine) is the only way we eat them.

And after each small plate of delectableness, when I've absorbed the earthiness into my body through my tongue and blissed-out mouth, I swear I never need to eat anything, ever again.




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79 comments:

Dee Dee said...

I AM GOING INTO THE WOODS!!! Right now! Thanks my sweet, I miss you.

Gwei Mui said...

Mushrooms my favourites - sadly there is nowhere near me where I can forage for wild mushrooms, garlic and the like.

cathyswatercolors said...

Yum, I've never had a morel mushroom they must be delicious. I wonder what they taste like?
David and I watched a doc. on mushrooms,not just the halucenigenics but all kinds ( on sundance)it was really interesting,wish i could watch it again...

I like the photos,format,and font of this blog very clean.

peace girlfriend... enjoy the rain!

ellen abbott said...

They are the most wonderful looking things! I would love to eat some too. Never seen them here.

Helena said...

Such cute and weird little mushrooms. And you cooked them! Cruel! ;-)

PurestGreen said...

Amazing. A friend just brought some mushrooms to our raw food potluck. She had marinated them and then put them in the dehydrator until they looked like "fried" mushrooms. There were so delicious.

Enjoy your feast when the mushrooms are ready.

♥ Kathy said...

How neat!

*jean* said...

ooo soooo lucky!!!

The Bug said...

I remember watching a Cash & Treasures episode on the Discovery Channel where she was hunting morels - they're worth something. But she was most impressed with how they taste.

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

Really like this post. It captures the joy of finding, preparing, enjoying rare mushrooms.

Looking for wild mushrooms is pretty big near where I live in Spain. There is a special treat in finding and enjoying certain types of mushrooms that you know are to short-lived to ever be offered in any store.

Pauline said...

nothing tastes better than a morel just picked and sauted in butter and a smidge of garlic! How envious I am - I haven't found a one yet!

Barry said...

So when are you inviting us all over for dinner?

Loring Wirbel said...

I miss morels sooooooooooooo much - even though I once fell all the way down the bank of the Grand River trying to reach for some.

Madeleine Vedel said...

absolutely beautiful! you make me want to move to Michigan tomorrow! I'll be up north this summer, but that feels a long ways' away. Meantime, I don't know the morel spots in Provence... ah well.

Ginnie said...

I would never dare ask you to save one for me. I have a feeling you deserve every last one you find...so enjoy them for me, too! I've never had one in my life! Hard to believe this annual ritual has come again so soon....

maggie said...

Great post Ruth. I wonder how you ever came to know the morel mushroom. Did you hunt and eat them as a kid?

VICKI IN AZ said...

Wonderful Treasure. I am delighted by how you describe every aspect of the experience. ;)

California Girl said...

And when I think what I pay for them at the grocery...dried OR fresh.

Oliag said...

I have heard that they grow in RI but I have never found one...or tasted one...I think I will have to look for them at Whole Foods this year:)

Your photos look good enough to eat themselves...

Susan said...

We didn't get to hunt yesterday. It poured the rain all day! I'm so jealous. Your pictures are stunning and that last one made my mouth water. I saw a recipe for morel risotto in a magazine last night, but I think you have the right idea...why mask that musky deliciousness with other ingredients?!!

margie said...

yum. careful of that poison ivy though.

Moannie said...

MORELS!!!! The epitome of the food of the gods-no nectar for me please, just a plate of MORELS lightly fried in butter with a touch of garlic and parsley. My mouth is gushing with water just imagining them. Found a truffle once, but those MORELS, never did.

Babs-beetle said...

Looks like something out of a science fiction movie!

I've never eaten, or even seen those mushrooms. I must admit the photo of those cooked makes my mouth water.

Jeanie said...

Yum! Reading this makes me hungry! It also reminds me of the chapters on truffle hunting in "A Pig in Provence!"

Pat said...

While I must admit they do look like brains, I love mushrooms and I think they'd be worth a try.

I like the new, clean look of your blog.

Jill of All Trades said...

Oh my mouth is watering. I haven't had morels for over 25 years. Yummy!

Snappy Di said...

I LOVED this post even though mushrooms and I do not see eye to eye when it comes to the palate.

Your blog inspires me as do you. Thank you for the lovely e-mail you sent.

Hugs,
Di
The Blue Ridge Gal

Ruth said...

Dee Dee my love, did you? did you find any? Have you looked behind your house before?

I miss you too much.

Ruth said...

Gwei Mui, oh, that is sad. I didn't know before the farm how strong their allurements can be.

Ruth said...

Cathy my artist friend, hmm, how to describe morels. They are mild, and earthy. They don't have a flavor anyone wouldn't like, I think. And the texture is rubbery before cooking, then after, just tender with a crispy crust. Oh man.

Thank you for the format mention very much.

We did enjoy the rain on the weekend, needed it. Peace back atchu.

Ruth said...

Ellen, aren't they CRAZY looking? What makes them curve and curl like that? In just a few hours? Maybe you can taste them some day, I hope.

Ruth said...

Oh Helena, you're sensitive, but don't worry, they exist to go in my belly! :)

Ruth said...

Hi, PurestGreen, your photos and descriptions of the raw food buffet were delectable. Especially those mushrooms. We have a dehydrator, and I would like to try it. Maybe I can find a recipe online . . .

We have enjoyed the morels for three days now, not counting today yet. I only found 4 yesterday. :(

Stacie said...

Oh my...that looks like heaven...will have to have some this season!~

swallowtail said...

I too, am sitting here drooling; listening to Bruce (Reason to Believe), and just wanting to tell you, Soul Sister, that we must be related. What I really wanted to say was/is: I love Coleman Barks. Oh, and butter really is better for you than any soy-anything will ever be. IF you cannot tolerate butter, use olive oil, you will be so happy ;-)

You have an awesome spot, here.

Thank you.

deb said...

Oh, you inspire so.

From beginning to end. The putting on of the jackets, to the consumption. Is this not truly how we feast.

Beautiful.

Vagabonde said...

What can I say – I look at your fried morels and I am salivating…

Ruth said...

Hi, ♥ Kathy.

Ruth said...

Jean, yes, and I try not to complain that we don't get more of them. :|

Ruth said...

Dana, oregonmushrooms sells them for $30/lb. That's a lot of mushrooms, and we might only get about a pound in a season. So . . .

Yes, the taste is, well, I already said it.

Ruth said...

Lorenzo, thank you. Morel season coincides with the first poison ivy shoots. Usually I get bad rashes somewhere from morel picking. One year when I went to Paris for a week, I was miserable with poison ivy every night, because I had been morel picking the week before the trip. I'm more careful now, and yes, there is immense satisfaction in hunting, spotting, picking, pocketing, cleaning, cutting, and sautéeing . . and EATING.

Ruth said...

Now, Pauline, we have never added garlic, though I bet it is delicious. We can't bear anything but salt and pepper.

Ruth said...

Barry, yesterday we found four. One for you, one for Linda, one for Don, and one for Peter. I'll watch.

renaye said...

wow. i have never seen such mushroom before!! it looks cute yet eerie!!!! and it's edible?! lucky u!

Ruth said...

Hey, Loring, but I thought Colorado has them? I remember that fire a few years ago that rampaged through forests, and then a kazillion morels were growing after that, leading to further worldviews on how and where morels grow.

I would love to share some with you. We don't have many, but we can cut them up small.

gemma said...

Those are beautiful and I can only imagine how delicious.

Oh said...

I'd say generally that it's not easy to make a mushroom look delectable, but by jove, you've done it. I'm sitting here thinking about them at 10:15 at night!!!!! I recently heard some people at work talking about looking for mushrooms. I didn't realize the delectableness of what they were discussing.
OK, I am going to sip some water and stop thinking about mushrooms, much less food.
Awesome.

Anna said...

Ruth, wow you just inspired me to go to the woods too, lol. These things looks like little brains, lol. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and inspirations. I love you writing style, it is always so interesting and unique. Anna :)

Ruth said...

Hello and welcome, Madeleine. You have one of my very favorite names. Your life there, and your writing about it, calmed me this morning, right along the lines of what I've been thinking and writing about. Bless you for your choices. Just wish you could find morels. But I guess we can't have it all?

Ruth said...

Boots, when you live in Saugatuck-Douglas, we'll have you and Astrid come over to the farm at morel time and make you go out for the hunt. The deal will be you can eat what you find. How's that?

Ruth said...

Thank you, Maggie. My husband had had them as a kid, and when we moved to the farm he heard about them from the school secretary. Then he started looking for them in a woods on my university campus, and found some! Then we found them on the property we inhabit and were thrilled.

Ruth said...

VICKI, hello and welcome. That is very nice of you to say. You are welcome back any time. :)

Ruth said...

California Girl, I spend an hour hunting. My time is what I pay. They are worth it.

None yesterday, boohoo.

Ruth said...

Ha, well Oliag, either way, I hope you will enjoy them. Maybe you could take those beautiful grandkids on a morel hunt next time, since they did so well with the Easter eggs.

Ruth said...

Susie dear, I'm happy you, the chef, agree with me about their solitary goodness. YUM. And we didn't get any yesterday. But I'll try not to complain, since you didn't get to go out for ANY.

Ruth said...

Hi there, Moannie! We have never added garlic and parsley, but they sound delicious. I don't know if I ever could do more than salt and pepper. I think we don't get enough of them to experiment, so we are cautious. Maybe I'll try it on one next time. Much as I love garlic - put it in everything - I don't know if I can cover the flavor of morels. :)

Loved your story today.

Ruth said...

Babs, and I almost didn't include a pic of the cooking mushrooms. I think it helps to see what they look like in that pan, because why would anyone want to eat them in their alien state?

Ruth said...

So yummy, Jeanie. I haven't read that. I wonder if you've been to Provence? I think just Paris. :)

sil said...

I want them! They look so yummy! Did not know about them. Thanks for sharing!

Ruth said...

Pat, believe me, the taste 100 times better than they look when raw. Although now, I see only beauty.

I'm glad you like how the blog looks. But I haven't changed it in a couple of years, except the header in March.

Ruth said...

So sad, Jill, I hope you can eat them again. If we were to leave the farm and our little stash, I don't know if I would pay the big bucks for them. I'm guessing not. :|

Ruth said...

Hi, Di, it's too bad you don't enjoy mushrooms. I think they'd enjoy you.

Wha? What a dumb thing to say . . .

:)

xxx

Ruth said...

Stacie, yes, get some and enjoy. I hope they don't cost an arm and a leg though.

Bella Rum said...

Looks delicious. I love mushrooms. These do look somewhat like a brain. Do you feel brainy after you eat them? If so, I need to eat a bunch of them. Ha! Enjoy!

Terresa said...

Mmmmmm. I am So Hungry right now!

CottageGirl said...

I've never had morels ... but now I must make a point of finding some!

Ruth said...

Hello, and thank you very much, Swallowtail, and for your further email about soy. I'll investigate more, based on your encouragement.

Sometimes I wish feeding ourselves was simpler. :|

Ruth said...

Deb, it makes me feel great that what inspires me also inspires you here. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Vagabonde, I wonder if you have had them, here or in France.

Ruth said...

Renaye, not just edible, incrEDIBLE!

Ruth said...

Gemma, ohhh so delicious. Here, have a bite. Oh dear! Just remembered we didn't hunt any last night . . . well maybe Don did and didn't find any, I got home late.

Ruth said...

Oh, one of the things that is true in our morel time is that finding even just 3 or 4 of them feels miraculous. And then the ritual of cleaning, dredging and sautéeing them is kind of like having a child's tea party. Eating just a couple of them on a plate makes us feel that we are partaking of a special blessing. I really like that focused appreciation.

Ruth said...

Thank you, kind Anna with the lovely eye, I appreciate your encouragement very much.

Ruth said...

Terresa, pull up a chair.

Love love your poem today.

Ruth said...

CottageGirl, I am pretty certain that you would love them as we do.

dutchbaby said...

Mmmmmm, those look so good. I wish I could eat them. I have fond memories of gathering chanterelles in the back woods of Lubeck, Germany with my mother and sisters.

Christina said...

i love mushrooms! these look so very good.
xoxo

Ruth said...

Dutchbaby, thank you. I don't know if I've ever eaten a chanterelle. I love all mushrooms -- well, the ones I've tried!

Ruth said...

Thank you, Christina, I can picture you whipping up something tasty and picture perfect in your sweet kitchen with mushrooms. Yum.

xoxo