Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Morchella, Mon Amour

"Seek and ye shall find," goes the biblical admonition (Matthew 7:7, merci Google), but it doesn't specify what ye shall find. And that's really rather clever, I think, because if you're all sort of type-A, compulsive-obsessive, goal-oriented in your seeking, well, you're much more likely to be disappointed than if you're prepared to be happy with whatever ye may find when ye goes a-seeking.

Case in point: I've been very up front about my abject failure to locate morels in years past. I've looked and looked, followed all the sage advice, and basically come home empty-handed. Seven or eight morels has constituted a major haul for me, so when I hear about people bringing home grocery bags full, I confess I have succumbed to debilitating morchella envy.

So I quit looking. Mary reminded me that many of my best foraging finds have come when I was doing something else entirely, or looking for something that was not what I found--a cress spring or a big tooth mushroom hanging from a streamside tree while fishing, hen-of-the-woods when I was after woodcock, a hill covered in chanterelles when I was just out walking with the dogs.

We were out at Bide-A-Wee last weekend, practicing some of our favorite Bide-A-Wee activities, "Peering Into Thickets" and "Swimming Through Bramble Patches." I was doing a little thicket peering, just scanning the ground under mixed brush, thinking I might see something much more humble than the vaunted morel--a patch of ostrich ferns, maybe, even some nice wood nettles--and the first one popped out at me. A small yellow morel, maybe two inches tall. When you've looked so often and not found morels, it's pretty amazing to not be looking, and then see one. I called Mary over and we started searching the area more closely. It didn't take long to pick around 30 morels, from an inch-and-a-half to about three inches long. We were pretty excited.

We sautéed some to have with a steak that night. They were good, but their flavor was a little overwhelmed by the beef. The next day for lunch we prepared them according to my favorite method for enjoying the best flavor of wild mushrooms--alongside soft-scrambled eggs flavored with salt, pepper, a sprinkling of chives, topped with the sweet, chivey flower stalks. I added a little milk to the eggs for a soft texture. Glass of our own cider to wash it down.

I'm hoping to be not looking for morels again this year.

Text and photos copyright 2010 by Brett Laidlaw


Anonymous said...

They look pretty good, Brett. We're heading down to Forestville State Park this weekend and I think we'll try your (non)method.

aesthetigeek said...

Hmmm! Can you train your dogs to sniff out morels the way pigs sniff out truffles? (But that would be seeking.)

el said...

Ack! I know what you mean!

One of my sailing buddies had an uncanny eye for them: I remember barreling down to Rochester with him on some boat errand and he, one of the most distracted drivers ever, pulled the car over to the side of the highway WAY too quickly. Yes, at 70 mph, he saw some growing on the embankment. We came back and had another feast.

(These MN feast reminiscences seem to always happen in springtime and always happen due to your prompting, Brett!)

Me, I am blind to them. Interestingly, as a kid my dad would take me with him hunting for them about 20 miles south of where I am now and if I remember correctly I was fairly awful at finding them then too...despite the fact that I was a good 2.5' closer to the ground then.

Trout Caviar said...

JT: Folks seemed to be finding them down in the Whitewater area, so Forestville should be good.

A-Geek: Well, you know, we tried a first faint stab at that. We showed a morel to Annabel (senior Griff), and she just kind of looked at us with an "Are you kiddin' me? I don't do fungi" sort of expression. Mary brought Lily (the kid) over, bent down to put the 'shroom up to her nose. Lily licked Mary's face eagerly and ran away. So that's going to take some work....

El, part of my difficulty in looking for morels is that I get so distracted! I mean, the trout season has just opened, and I'm really torn about spending hours looking for morels when I could be on the stream. I know (pretty much) that I can bring home a meal of trout, ramps, fiddleheads, and cress, so I don't approach my morel hunts with the proper attitude. My best forages always come about when I go out and just lose myself in the woods (not literally, though, sometimes, nearly...), forget about time or what I'm even looking for, go to the Zenny place, where ask is have, where seek is find, where knock is open wide (which is Book of Matthew, Christopher Smart, and Roethke, if you're keeping score; I learn by going where I have to go).

Thanks for writing, all. Happy seeking~ Brett

Nate said...

Congrats on the find! I was lucky enough last year to find a few places and I've been checking them this year. The one that produced yellows was flushed right on schedule, but a place down South a ways that has grays was completely barren! I'm not sure if they're waiting for some more warmth? It hasn't been that warm since our last rain, but maybe after these next few storms things will get going.

I thought by having a few "spots" this year would be more an exercise in gathering rather than hunting, but so far they're mostly keeping me guessing!

Sylvie in Rappahannock said...

I think we've had 9 or 10 this year. Spring's too dry and too warm. last year wasn't a great year either...

Glad for you that - at least or this year - you need not succumb morel envy!

Trout Caviar said...

Hi Nate: I'm not sure how long a known source will produce morels. Sometimes it's just a one-year thing, it seems. That's great that your yellows spot produced. The woods were still pretty dry where I have looked; despite recent rains we're still way behind in moisture for the spring.

Sylvie, I really do feel quite satisfied with our find this year--it might equal my lifetime morel total up to this point! I can do some casual hunting now that the pressure's off. Sending rainy and 'shroomy thoughts your way~ Breett

Rob said...

Looks delicious! I've never had morels, then again, I've never looked for them. Having run into morel pickers at the Coon Rapids dam park reserve while stalking ducks to photo-shoot, I ask them where they find them. The simply say in the park. Morel grounds are as highly guarded as crappie holes, and blueberry patches.

Trout Caviar said...

This might be a good year for your first morel hunt, Rob. Lots of folks seem to be finding them this year. Or as my own dear wife said to someone, "There must be a lot of them out there if even Brett is finding them...". Real nice.

Look near dead elms that are just starting to shed their bark. "Peelers" I think I saw them called on a morel website. Or, just enjoy this delightful spring, and take lots of photos!

Cheers~ Brett