Monday, May 26, 2008

Monday Farm Photo: Foraging & Finding Morels (Not Today)


Morning mushroom score!*

I actually found and photographed these gorgeous morel mushrooms, all 1¼ pounds (!) of them, back on April 23rd, then promptly forgot about the photos until the other day when I noticed that wild mushrooms had started popping up around the blogosphere. It seems morel season here in southern Missouri (when all the forces of nature come together in the right way and we actually have one, that is) happens early. In many places the time to find morels has only just begun.

This is probably my biggest morel score ever, discovered on a warm and muggy morning following a nice rainstorm the previous day - perfect mushroom growing weather. I actually bestowed this entire bounty upon a foodie friend in the city who was blown away by my willingness to part with them.

"Tell me you saved some for yourself," he said.

"Actually, no."

"What?!"

"It's okay. It's the beginning of the season - I might find some more. And besides, it's not like they're chanterelles." If they were chanterelles - which I've only found a few times in all my 13 years of living in Missouri - I wouldn't have even told him about them. Yes, I can really be that selfish when it comes to hard-to-find food that I love.


Small morel mushroom in its natural habitat

In this case, though, my generosity was rewarded because a few days later Joe (who had never tasted a morel in his life but now loves them because I foolishly forced some on him several years ago) and I happened upon several giant specimens in a spot on the farm we'd never checked before. It was as if somebody had sprinkled steroids on the soil; some of them were an astonishing 5 or 6 inches long, not including the stems. We feasted.

One of these years I should probably try doing something a little more imaginative with my morels, but I always end up just cutting them into pieces (after soaking them in salted water to remove the dirt and any bugs lurking inside) and sautéeing them in butter with a sprinkling of salt. This time we enjoyed the simple preparation alongside grilled, grass-fed steaks from our own farm-raised beef, plenty of pain au levain to sop up all that marvelous juice, and glasses of a nice cabernet. Wow.

My foodie city friend made his morels last for two meals, one shared with his foodie girlfriend (sautéed with butter and a little white wine and served over ribeye steaks) and the other with a foodie friend who was recovering from knee surgery. In a thank you e-mail he reported that they were "Fabulous! Fabulous! Fabulous! And that was three separate opinions."

Our morel season consisted of just those two days this year - it was very short but very delicious. I recently read that morel mushrooms were selling for $48 per pound at a Chicago farmers' market, which made me even more appreciative of our elusive gourmet gathering.

Have you ever found morels in your kitchen, by way of a walk through the forest or the farmers' market? What did you do with them?

* Foraging for wild mushrooms can be a wonderful and rewarding thing to do, but you should never taste (or even touch) a wild mushroom unless you are 110% sure that it is edible. Most mushrooms are poisonous, and many are deadly. Please be smart and stay safe!

© 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the foraging foodie farm blog where morel mushroom season might be over, but the wet, warm, and muggy weather has just begun, which means there's still hope of finding wild edible boletus, puffball, chicken of the woods, and yes, even my beloved chanterelle mushrooms - and there are already scary (yet fascinating) looking poisonous mushrooms popping up all over the place.

21 comments:

  1. I had my first morels this year... my fiance's dad brought over a small container. They sure do look wierd but once i tried one....

    We prepared them the way my fiance had grown up eating them.... dipped in egg wash, rolled in flour..... and fried till CRISP in lots of butter and oil.

    DELISH!

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  2. How do you tell the difference between edible and poisonous mushrooms? I don't plan to pick any myself but I'm just curious.

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  3. Aren't they exquisite??!!!!!!
    Check out my blog too. Sinful Morels is the post.
    I an't wait for next year....

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  4. wow, am I jealous. I thought our four morels that we've found in our yard over the past few weeks was wonderful. Until I saw your treasure trove, that is! wow.

    We only had one or two at at time, so we sauteed them and added them to a sauce.

    Here is the link for one of our meals:
    http://www.rickandlynne.com/lynne/index.php/lynne/the_morel_of_the_story/

    They were delicious!

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  5. We had one year, where this giant elm was dying and we got bags and bags of them. I called it the giving tree. Never had luck like that again. We do the butter and salt thing but we make it into a morel sandwich on fresh bread. Love them.

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  6. Great photos of the morels!

    When I was a teenager I was living in Germany (my dad was in the army) and my parents had a small trailer parked semi-permanently at a private campground. We would go out to the nearby fields and pick champignons. There really is nothing like a fresh mushroom you've picked yourself and cooked the same day in a little butter, salt, & pepper. 30 years later I still remember how delicious it was!

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  7. My brother lives in southern Indiana, where the season has been underway for at least three weeks. He has a photo of his "whopper" on his phone, and he shows it to EVERYONE. It's about half the size of a loaf of bread!

    I just saw morels at a farm stand for $29/lb. That's the best deal I've seen in years. Usually they're $35 to $40 here.

    I read a great blog that said you should rinse them in plain water first, and throw the rinse water someplace where you want morels to grow. I guess the water holds spores.

    I'm jealous of your big find!

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  8. Aw, you almost made me miss Oregon where we use to go morel hunting and find pounds of them, but it was hard work. I made a mushroom soup one time with morels and it was too die for.

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  9. Well, we only found ONE morel on our first hunt (but it made for a nice photo:), and sadly I'll be missing the rest of the season, as I'm off to the US for almost a fortnight tomorrow :)

    Bean - you need a good mushroom guide. Forageing for wild mushrooms is big here in Estonia, and we're eating lots of them in the autumn.

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  10. Never seen morels around here, though we do find other mushrooms in the woods behind the house. Last year was way too dry and we didn't get many of any kind of mushroom, but I'm hoping this year will be better. Though now I really want to try morels. I won't be able to bring myself to pay the going price for them though . . .

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  11. Wait - you raise beef too?

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  12. I AM SO JEALOUS!!!! I haven't eaten morels since I was a teenager growing up in Southern Illinois. My mom fixed them the same way you do. Oh how I would love to have that whole load....

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  13. hi susan...
    wow! what a find!!
    there's an AWESOME recipe for asparagus and morel bread pudding in Deborah Madison's "local flavors"...it's also used with permission in barbara kingsolver's book "animal, vegetable, miracle"...
    i made it this weekend with portobellos, since no morel's on our property--plenty of mushrooms--but none edible...
    big ones even grow out of the tree in the front yard!
    anyway--the bread pudding is fabulous with substitue shrooms..just imagine how scrumptous it will be with the real things!
    yum!

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  14. Those morels look wonderful!!!! It's probably been 2 years since I've had any. Mmmmmm...

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  15. Susan, we prepare our morels the same as you except we give them a very light coating of flour...and yes, fry them in lots of butter and get those nice little extra browned bits to eat ;) I can never bear to do anything to eat them just this way - though tradition in the family growing up always had them served alongside fresh Blue Gills prepared the same way (a light flour dip then fried in lots of butter) Groan....now I am hungry and not a blue gill or morel in site!

    I want to thank you again for the EXCELLENT tips for processing lamb ~ it was very generous of you to do!!!

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  16. Yes, we get morels by the bagful in several places in our woods. We don't care for them ourselves, and give them to friends who think we are saints for sharing!

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  17. I haven't had a fresh morel since I moved from Missouri a thousand years ago. And I miss them! It's one of my very favorite things; right up there with garden-grown asparagus. (I take that back, I HAVE had them in very small portions at restaurants, but they're not nearly as good!)

    The only way we ever ate them growing up is very similar to how you cooked yours, except mom only cut them in half, not pieces. In my opinion, that's the best way!

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  18. I saw morels at the SF Ferry Plaza farmers' market the other week for $49/lb. I was with Brett (In Praise of Sardines) who looked at me deadpan and said: "at $49 for a pound of mushrooms, I'd want to be getting high."

    I am officially jealous of your impressive haul!

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  19. Dusted in salted flour and fried. They used to find tons on my grandpa's farm back in the day but I went this year and found only a couple (right outside St. Louis). The undergrowth was so bad you couldn't even get into the woods. My grandpa ended up finding some growing in his back yard - only steps from the back door. How lucky!

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  20. Morels....sigh! It has been a long time, but growing up in Central Illinois, the ONLY way to fix them was either whole or halved depending on size, dredged in egg and milk and then crushed saltine cracker crumbs, and then fried in butter. Yummy! Nothing better than that.

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  21. Now I am ready for mushroom season...I live in west central Missouri...and mushroom hunting with my grandpa is one of my fondest memories and I can't wait to pass it down to my children. I agree with the last comment.....dipped in egg, then crushed saltines and fried is the best way too eat them!!!!

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