Ah morel mushrooms….
It is spring here in Michigan. We had a really long winter and once winter leaves and the lilacs are about to bloom, it is my favorite time of year – wild morel mushroom hunting season. Yes, you hunt morels, you don’t find them. You stalk them, creep up on them, stop and stare, pause and pounce on morels, leaving the root behind for next year’s spore action.
I mentioned it is spring, but Mother Nature has been confusing lately and giving us a 75F day and then the next week is below freezing at night. She has confused the morels too. Normally I wouldn’t expect to start hunting for another week or two and I actually have time off planned to go visit the farm/friends and fam up in Leelanau at the end of May, but when I was raking the lawn this week, I almost raked a cluster of morels.
In my yard, yes. Oh bleaders, I did the mushroom dance immediately (one must do the mushroom dance when you find your first mushroom). I think my BF was a bit surprised at my reaction. It is the happiest day of spring when you find your favorite mushroom anywhere, much less in your lawn. I have had a lot of trees (that were dying) removed from my backyard over the last 5 years and have lots of woody mass in the backyard still. Every year when I wash any morels I have found, I carefully save the rinse water and pour it out in the backyard along the fence, hoping the spores will cultivate and that the mushroom gods will smile upon me again.
It’s working. I found my first morel in my yard 3 years ago when I was rototilling the garden plot. Every year they have been in a totally different location. Last year I found 8. This year, I found 20 30! A 1/2 pound. I am cooking them up tonight in a most cherished appetizer. Unless you have mushrooms coming out of your ears, then you don’t find very many and to me, they are best eaten alone, with just a few accompaniments.
I prefer them two ways: one way coats them in a light dusting of flour first, the second is cooked the same way, no dusting. Usually I have some wild leeks to go along with it and often find morels and leeks side by side in the forest. However, my backyard is lacking in wild leeks, for now. Often when hunting morels you will find a wild stalk of asparagus and we always slice that up and toss it in too. I found three spindly spears of asparagus in our newly established asparagus patch at the back of the garden. So, the appetizer will be as follows:
Fresh Morels, sliced in half (rinse and inspect for bugs first), lightly dusted in flour of your choice. A stalk of asparagus, sliced thinly like a green onion. Butter – no olive oil for this one. Salt, pepper and thyme – fresh from the herb pot. One clove of garlic, or use a wild leek if you have one, minced – the leek sliced thin.
Melt the butter, toss in your dusted morels and when they are about halfway cooked through, add the rest of the ingredients. Let the morel get a bit crispy – it locks the flavor in behind the flour coating. Eat immediately.
Or the other way, melt the butter, toss in your halved morels (rinse and inspect for bugs first), asparagus, garlic and seasonings. Cook just until the mushrooms have wilted a bit and give off their juices. Immediately pull from the heat and eat the mushrooms using your favorite bread to soak up the juices.
Elixir of the heavens.