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.
"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.