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Morel Mushrooms: A Gourmet Springtime Treat

Updated on September 27, 2015

A Common Morel Mushroom

That Doesn't Necessarily Mean Easy To Find
That Doesn't Necessarily Mean Easy To Find | Source

Okay, I'm Game

My roommate, SQ, loves morel mushrooms. She has been hunting them with her father since she was a child. I had no objection to a day in the fresh air, so we went to pick up my friend NJ at her home in southern Indiana, and she showed us to the places where morels were rumored to hang out.

I should have stayed on the farm. SQ expressed the opinion that people who were high on liquid of grape provender, such as that consumed by NJ and I, had no business hiking around cliffs. I have to agree with her assessment, the truth of which only became clear to me after NJ and I were about a half mile down a flight of improvised wooden steps. We all know why Sky divers wear parachutes. Gliding down on the available air currents promises a much softer landing than plummeting to your death from a cliff.

I am blind. When I was a kid, I could see well enough to read print. I even had a bicycle until my last eye surgery which was a few decades ago. Suddenly, I lost what little vision I had, but I kept forgetting that.

The fact that I could not even see the 3 feet in front of my nose that I used to call my own would slip my mind at inconvenient intervals. I would look forward to a movie, and once I got to the theater, it would occur to me that I wouldn’t be able to follow the darn thing. I would go to the annual fireworks displays, fully anticipating pretty lights in the sky only to remember that all I was going to get out of the celebration was the privilege of smelling the people around me, and listening to them sigh, “oooooo” “AHHHHH!”

I relate these facts about myself just so you can appreciate how lacking in intelligence I would have to be to forget that I had hip replacement surgery about 15 years ago. My fake hip has been painless, and until I’d managed to repel myself about 10 steps back up the wooden mountain described earlier, it gave me very little trouble.

The prosthesis bends like a natural limb, but I can’t depend on it when I’m trying to walk up stairs. This means that I had to put my right foot on the step ahead of me, and instead of swinging my left foot to the next step above, I could only swing it to the same step as the right foot. Progress was very slow. Do the “Hokey Pokey” up one of the Rockies if you want to try it for yourself.

Being a blind cripple was pathetic enough. But, and this is VERY embarrassing, I also forgot I had a benign brain tumor about 10 years ago. This little gem was about the size of a golf ball. In addition to destroying my hearing in my right ear, it gave me a lousy sense of equilibrium. This means that I have some difficulty negotiating rough terrain. In other words, between my fake hip and poor balance, I almost fell down the side of a very steep hill.

When I wasn’t in fear for my life, I had a wonderful time. It is one of those experiences that might have been on my bucket list if I had saved room for things that really could cause my death. I’d better review my list to make sure there’s nothing else that could get me killed.

Are morels really worth dying for?

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Grays, Yellows And --- POISON IVY!

Taking A Book With You Might Enhance The Safety Of The Hunt

Alcohol Inky Mushroom

These Mushrooms Should Not Be Eaten With Any Alcoholic Beverage
These Mushrooms Should Not Be Eaten With Any Alcoholic Beverage | Source

Got Milk?

I can be a middle of the road kind of gal. Sometimes, you have to stay in the center, unless, of course, you’re on the highway, and that center contains a white line. Some mushrooms walk that line, because they can be edible, but highly toxic if eaten raw, or cooked improperly.

There is nothing better than a wild mushroom soup or quiche on a chilly spring day. If you are a tea totaler, and you don’t find any morels, you may want to sample the interesting fungus pictured above.

The “Alcohol Inky” mushroom can be eaten if it is prepared properly. In fact, its fans find it delectable, and well worth the effort. However, if a friend has invited you over for a plate of these delicacies in a couple of days, don’t sip Kentucky bourbon in anticipation of the treat. Once you have consumed a delicious plate of these gourmet treats, mark it on your calendar and make sure you don’t absent mindedly drink a cold one until at least 48 hours have elapsed. Alcohol of any kind and alcohol inkies can enhance an evening’s entertainment, just not within a few days of each other.

They may not give you a heart attack, but your racing heart will make you think you’re having one. The only antidote is time. A lot of how you react will depend on how many mushrooms you eat, how much you drink, and your own sensitivity. The older the mushrooms are when you eat them, the stronger their effects will be. Again, they are harmless if you take the proper precautions, but avoid them if you are absent minded about when you last tippled or last ate alcohol inkies.

If You Eat Alcohol Inkies, Keep Your Calendar Handy

If you drink several days before or after eating alcohol inky mushrooms, you will have the same symptoms as an alcoholic who takes Antabuse to curb his desire to drink. These symptoms include: rapid heart rate, Heart palpitations, nausea, flushing of the face, tingling of extremities, and headaches. To add insult to injury, the two indulgences can occur so far apart that the victim may not associate the mushrooms he ate with the ill-timed alcohol consumption.

Mesh Bags Allow Spores To Populate The Ground For Next Year's Crop

Look, But Don't Eat

| Source
Deadly Fungi: Avoid At All Cost!
Deadly Fungi: Avoid At All Cost!

These Mushrooms Are Food For Thought, But Not For Dinner

Years ago, I bought my mom a bath spa for Christmas. She and I read the directions together, and were impressed about the potential for death and maiham that plugging the device in could present.

The directions were simple enough. Plug the spa in. Hop in the tub and relax. While you enjoyed your warm, relaxing ablution, you could read the 20 page instruction booklet that came with the device. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that every other sentence seemed to mention electrocution, injury and possibly death if your use of the product was in any way in conflict with the directions. That is one effective way to keep you from dozing off in the tub.

My mom’s bath spa isn’t relevant to Hunting morel mushrooms. However, mushrooms come in many varieties, and the list of poisonous ones could fill up the warning pamphlet on my mom’s spa, if not the novel, “War And Peace”.

You can spend your whole life sampling mushrooms. This is, in part, because there are many healthful varieties to choose, and they can be a tasty addition to your larder. However, eating the wrong one can return you to your maker, painfully and quickly, which would make your mushroom sampling life a short one.

Happily enough, there are plenty of etible varieties, and all you have to do is learn the difference. Yes, that should make you very, very cautious.

Here is a list of some mushrooms you shouldn’t eat, or feed to your worst enemy unless you want to go to jail for a real long time:

Amanitas: These poisonous little fungi sport an unhealthy dose of amanitin, a lethal toxin that kills by shutting down the liver and kidneys. Not all Amanitas are poisonous, but with names like “death cap” and “the destroying angel”, you won’t want to include them in your quiche.

Little Brown Mushrooms aren’t all poisonous, but it is hard to tell the difference. Again, unless you’re a veteran mushroom hunter, you might want to leave these babies where you find them.

False Morels: My roommate, SQ has been mushroom hunting with her father since she could walk. She assures me that she knows the difference between a true morel and its not so innocuous relatives. I hope she does, because making a mistake here could be deadly.

The Jack o'Lantern : This ain’t no pumpkin, but you can sport a death’s head soon enough if you eat one. This isn’t because it will likely kill you. It probably won’t. Its just the diarrhea and cramps may make you wish for a visit from the Grim Reaper.

Lepiota, Chlorophyllum molybdites, boletes, Clitocybe,

Inocybe, and Cortinarius species all have poisonous family members who look innocent. So, make sure you know what you’re putting over your grilled steak or your gourmet meal could be your last.

Real Morel mushrooms are as good a source of nutrition as you are likely to find. They contain every vitamin or mineral you could desire. Go here for a complete breakdown of a healthy morel’s ingredieant list.

Whether you hunt for them, or choose to grow your own, morels are yummy. Again, it is very important that you know what you've found before you decide to eat it.

True Or False Morels, A Test You Shouldn't Take Without Studying

All We Found Is One Stinking Mushroom

Should We Eat It Or Dry It For Posterity?
Should We Eat It Or Dry It For Posterity? | Source

Some People Never Learn

Morels are sought after all over the world. Southern Indiana has many places where these delectable little fungi like to congregate. When we found only one small one on our first attempt, we assumed we were just hunting too early. So, we decided to try again in a couple of weeks.

Since I am not much help on a “hunt” of any kind, I volunteered to stay in the car and read. NJ was not interested in letting me relax in the warm spring breeze. She enjoyed our last little ramble down the cliff, and insisted that a repeat performance of our previous entertainment was in order.

All the way down the steps, NJ was trying to assist me, by giving me a gentle shove when I least expected it. When NJ wasn’t trying to help me realize a death wish, Mother Nature laid a generous supply of rocks, branches and other detritus on my path so that I would feel free to take a tumble when things needed to be livened up.

It took about a half hour to get down the first step grouping. My vertigo doesn’t manifest itself immediately. In the way of such things, it springs itself on me when I am about half way down a very steep hill. Then, and only when all hope of ignominious retreat has been removed, will I suddenly feel like I am going to take an impromptu dive into the clear spring morning.

NJ assured me that the steps weren’t nearly as bad as the ones from our previous venture. When my mother dropped me on my head, I must have bounced, because, I believed her.

In fairness to NJ, the steps we picked our way down were probably no worse than the last set. I made it down, and by clinging to the banister, I remained almost upright. Then, we got to the “natural” stone steps, where the fun really began.

Some of the steps were itty bitty on one end, and wide and craggy on the other. Other portions were composed of sliding gravel that a Billy goat would have found challenging. Some were so slick that I was sure I would be launched to eternity in an avalanche of rocks and trees. I prayed to Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, and anybody else who may have been able to rescue me if needs be. Believe me, there were a few times when needs arrived with bells on.

We finally got to the bottom. There was a picnic table, and a beautiful level surface. It was close to a water fall that we could enjoy from a relatively comfortable perch. I had envisioned sitting there for a couple of hours, enjoying nature and waiting for my heart to stop pounding when NJ announced, “We’d better get back up the hill before dark.” So —- off —- we —— went —-.

Mushroom Hunters Are The Most Generous People On Earth, Right?

If you ask an avid mushroom hunter to share the location of his favorite spot, what is likely to happen?

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Yes, Buying Them Is Expensive, But Think Of The Savings!

There are ways you can be sure what you're getting is morel mushrooms. $90.00 for 8 oz. of anything may sound like a lot, but if you factor in gas, time, bugs and noxious mushrooms, buying them may not seem that costly. Of course, you can always raise your own, but that could take a couple years.

The Other Ten Commandments

10 Facts About Morels

h1 The mushrooms you see are the reproductive portion of certain fungi. They pop up to spread their spores so that new fungi can be developed next year.

2 Morels can be found near dead trees, newly cut forest areas, along railroad tracks, meadows, or just about anywhere else where conditions are right. They are fond of oak, ash, or May apples, however they aren’t too picky as long as they have rotted vegetation to eat. The best time to look for this delectable little fungus is between April and June, depending on where you live. It is best to look for morels on a warm spring day after a rain.

3 A morel is hollow from the cap through the stem. If you cut a wild mushroom in half and find that it has fluff in it, pitch it. It could be a morel look alike.

4 Morel look alikes are not moral act alikes. Morals, cooked properly are actually good for you. However, look alikes can be poisonous, and can make you very sick. Some of the worst offenders can kill you. So, when in doubt, throw it out.

5 You aren’t the only avid morel lover. Insects are quite happy to discover these taste treats, and take up residence in and on them. There are several methods to clean out the bug population. Soak your harvest in salt water for a half hour before cooking to evict these nasty little pests. Cut them in half and rinse them in cold water. There is no truth to the adage that getting mushrooms wet will make them soggy. After all, they are already about 70% water. However, you shouldn’t soak them after they’re cut because then they will suck up some liquid.

6 Bumper crop? You lucky devil! If your harvest was big enough to store left overs, you should dry them on a screen. Once they are dried, they will keep for years. Simply soak them to rehydrate them when you’re ready to use them.

7 Morels can upset your tummy if you eat them raw, so cook them first, and invite me over.

8 Throw any discolored, shriveled or bruised mushrooms away. At $90.00 for 8 oz. I know it hurts. However, one bad mushroom does spoil the whole bunch, and can cause you a big disappointment when you are ready to eat your saved mushrooms.

9 When you pick morels, snap them off at the bottom of the stem so you don’t uproot the parent fungus, or use a sharp knife to make a clean cut at the base. After all, you do want the parents to reproduce a crop for next year, so you don’t want to uproot them.

10 Use a mesh bag when you collect your morels. In this way, the little spores can fly free and reproduce. A soft mesh bag can also protect your mushrooms from bumps and bruises.

Find 'Em, Clean 'Em, Cook Em' And Eat 'Em up

DYI, Get Your Morels Without Leaving The Farm

Well, At Least Someone Had A Good Hunt

 These Guys Are Just Begging For Garlic And Butter!
These Guys Are Just Begging For Garlic And Butter! | Source

Got Enough Morels To Store? Here's How

If you’ve had good luck in your mushroom hunt, I’m jealous. Still, in the name of good sportsmanship, I’ll share what I have learned about storing your hard won bounty so you can gloat over a tasty plate of morels at Thanksgiving, while I suffer with a package of Ramen noodles. I don’t know if Ramen noodles actually suffer, but if my roommate and I are consigned to eat what we found this past spring, we will both be pretty hungry. Well, maybe the turkey will be done before we dry up and blow away.

There are many ways to store morels for later use. The great thing is that the proponents of each method swear that the mushrooms can last for years if their instructions are followed carefully. The most important advice is to make sure they are frozen solid or totally dry when you put them away. There are three basic approaches to mushroom preservation. They are freezing, drying and canning.

Freezing mushrooms can be accomplished several ways. You can bread them, and fry them until they are about half cooked, like some of the ideas one gets after a few beers. You can wash them, pat them dry, and then put them in the freezer. You can cover them in water and freeze them solid, kind of like a mushroom Popsicle. You can microwave them for a minute or so, being careful that they are only half cooked, and then drain them and pat them dry.

All but one freezing method call for splitting the mushrooms in half, cleaning them to evict any six legged tenants, and placing them on a cookie sheet, making sure they are not touching. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer and once the morels are solid, put them in zip lock bags, being careful to get all of the air out before putting them back in the freezer. With the full emersion method, follow the same instructions until the part where you pat them dry and put them on a cookie sheet to freeze.

Drying methods, too are varied. You can string your mushrooms up like you would popcorn to decorate your Christmas tree, and hang them up in a cool dry place until their water evaporates, and they are totally dry. You can string them up, and tie the ends of the string to the rods on your oven rack. Once you have filled the rack or racks, place them in a very low oven (150 degrees) and let them hang until they are dry. You should keep the oven door slightly open so that they don’t cook. You can place them on a screen and let them dry naturally in a cool dry place, or you can buy a dehydrator.

Morels can be canned. However, you should be very careful if you choose this route. Apparently even morels can release poison if they go from the woods to the pressure cooker. Thus, they should be precooked, either by steaming or boiling before they are canned.

Other tidbits I picked up during my research include:

  1. If your morels turn black, they have rotted. They must be dried in a cool dry place. A 70 degree spring day has possibilities if you have a place you can spread them out on a screen away from critters you don’t want to invite to share your harvest.

  2. Don’t dry them on paper towels. Apparently that makes them taste like paper towels instead of morels. After all of your hard work, the last thing you want to taste in your Sautee is the quicker picker upper.

  3. No matter what preservation method you use, your mushrooms should not touch each other until the process is completed. They should not overlap on a cookie sheet if you freeze them. If you use an oven rack, screen or dehydrator, they should remain separated from each other until they are totally dry. Once your chosen process is complete, they should be stored in air free plastic bags if you are freezing, or an air tight container when they are completely dried out.

  4. When you are ready to eat your frozen harvest, don’t thaw your mushrooms before you cook them. Fry them on low heat with butter. Add your crushed garlic at the last minute. It doesn’t need to cook very long, and if you burn it, it will ruin your hard won treat.

  5. Rehydrate your mushrooms in a pan of boiling chicken broth. Beef broth is too strong, and will overwhelm the morel’s delicate taste.

Dehydrating Is A Good Way To Save Extra Produce, Including Morels

You Can Air Dry Your Harvest If The Weather Holds


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