Gastronomic Fight Club SM

Mischief. Mayhem. Soup.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Hunting Morel Mushrooms

posted by snekse
I'd like to tell you about my first mushroom hunting trip. But I can't. It's a secret. Locations, techniques, everything.

Mushroom hunters are part of a secret society. They will share their secrets with each other, but only in very vague details. And the closer you are to their territory, the more vague the details get. And as you get really close, what little information they give turns into disinformation. Such as taking circular erratic paths to your destination so people cannot follow your trail. I'm not making this up. We're talking full on espionage tactics here.

So I felt very honored that my step-father agreed to take me mushroom hunting with him. I really was mostly joking when I mentioned in my previous post. Not only did he take me with him, but he took me to one of his ultra-top-secret locations. So guarded is this spot that he's never brought anyone there, not even his dogs. About all I can tell you is it was located in Northeastern Nebraska and we were surround by trees. That's all you're getting out of me.

The Hunt

I do at least get the satisfaction of claiming I found the first morel of the day. But beyond that, my hunting skills were pretty dismal. Every dead tree called my name, but I think they were in cahoots with the mushrooms because none lead to the prized hole ridden fungus I was searching for. After about an hour of searching on my own, I made my way back to my guide, who by this time had about a half a bag full of morels. With a little more guidance I found a couple of more on our way out, but nothing to really brag about.

Taste Testing

After cleaning, soaking and drying our bounty, we prepared the mushrooms a couple of different ways. My mom breaded and pan fried a batch because that's how her mother always did it. Not bad, but a little heavy for the delicate taste of morels. I'd like to try them with panko crumbs or tempura batter. My step-father sauteed a batch in a bit of butter because that's how his mother always did it. Again, not bad, but the butter was a little heavy for the delicate taste of morels. I'd like to try them with a light olive oil and *maybe* a little garlic. Of the two methods, I liked the sauteed morels better, but it was nice to have the breaded morels for a change of texture. The next morning we made scrambled eggs with them, both on the side and mixed into the eggs. Very tasty, but they were better just on the side or maybe as an omelet filling. Either way, leave them in larger meatier chunks. Just curious, has anyone tried them steamed?


So that was my first morel mushroom hunting trip. Very fun, but now I think I'm hooked, so I have yet something else to obsess about. If you too want to become obsessed, I'll leave you with this parting tip for finding morels. Morels are finicky species and only grow under certain conditions. Despite what my pictures may lead you to believe, look for them under bonsai trees in densely populated urban areas for a delectable treat.

** UPDATE **
Per the Nebraska Games and Park Commission’s Web site, "when oak leaves are the size of a squirrel's ear, when lilacs and woodland violets are blooming, when the first asparagus breaks earth, on Mother's Day – that's when you start looking for wild morel mushrooms." Look on the north-facing hill side slopes and moist wooded area under rotting elm trees.

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