A Tale of Morels
Check this out. My wife, who’s doing the gardening in our household, found three Morel mushrooms in our back yard! What’s going on? Are we sitting on a gold mine and not know it?
It is amazing how many interesting wild things can grow in our small backyards. The only thing is to just look for them. Pretty soon we’ll stop going to the grocery store to buy our produce. That would be heaven in the Chicago Northwest Suburbs. Well, at least a hint.
Now, if I can convince the mayor that there is no harm in having a small chicken farm in our backyard. And probably a cow and a goat in one side of the garage. Fresh eggs, fresh milk and so on. After all, we live in Organic America! Everyone in urban Romania has a mini-farm in one degree or another. They cannot afford living otherwise.
What’s A Morel Mushroom?
Wikipedia teaches us that:
Morchella, the true morels, is a genus of edible mushrooms closely related to anatomically simpler cup fungi. These distinctive mushrooms appear honeycomb-like in that the upper portion is composed of a network of ridges with pits between them.
You got that? Yeah – a little too scientific to my tastes – but the only thing you need to remember is that a Morel mushroom is EDIBLE and looks like Oblio‘s brain. And boy, how delicious it can be! They are coveted by gourmet cooks and mushroom aficionados (called “Shroomers“) and there are yearly pilgrimages to hunt them down.
There are two types of morels that are popular. The yellow morel (Morchella esculenta) and the black morels (Morchella elata).
If you are lucky enough to find some consider yourself very special, because you found some of the tastiest mushrooms on Earth, that otherwise would cost you a fortune.
A Few Tips On Hunting Morel Mushrooms
There is a very small window of time and depending on what state you are in, it can range from March to May, even June. I live in Illinois so the time (mid April) is just right. Now, it also depends on your local weather, how long cold lingers around etc.
Although morel mushroom locations are highly kept secrets by shroomers, there are a few useful tips on hunting morels for us beginners:
- Identify the time window for Morel harvest in your geographic location.
- Locate regions that had a forest fire in the last 2-3 years
- Look for apple trees or apple orchard remnants
- Search around dead elm, cottonwood logs
- Start your foray after a good rain or two
There’s more science into finding the morels than in preparing them. A common way is simply to fry them in butter as in the video below. Then of course there’s the cuisine of France or Provençal with some elaborate ways of cooking.
If you get the chance to find fresh morels, don’t waste time with drying or storing. Cook them right away and enjoy their freshness, since these occasions are very rare!
Grow Morels Yourself!
If you are like my wife Stephanie, or me, and have a backyard, you will want to look into buying a Morel Habitat Kit. The kit is not cheap ($29.95 plus shipping) but chances are that you can get a pretty decent crop every spring. There is minimal work and maintenance to do. You might need some dead logs for the inoculation process.
Apparently morel habitats can be started in any soil and geographical location that has a defined transition from winter to spring. This is what we’ll be doing next year and strongly encourage you too! Just one big WARNING:
DON’T TELL YOUR NEIGHBORS ABOUT IT!!