More on Morels

Believing is Seeing

Mushroom hunting can teach us a lot about the larger world. A common experience of mushroom hunters is not being able to see a particular kind of mushroom when they first try to collect it. One woman wanted to find morels… and spent an entire morning looking, without finding a single morel… Just as she was about to give up, she saw one morel just a few inches away, and picked it. Clutching it triumphantly, she looked up and saw hundreds of them scattered through the woods in all directions.

A useful lesson that can be drawn from this: that our brain acts as a filter, screening out what it doesn’t consider significant. A certain ‘key’ has to be in place before our brain can say ‘Aha!’ and recognize something.And of course, what we recognize has real consequences… what we experience is determined by what we are able to perceive… we should be willing to accept other people’s experiences… otherwise we could live in a forest full of morel and never see them.”

Excerpt by Dr. Andrew Weil, from pg 229 of David Arora’s All That the Rain Promises and More…

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My Morel Hunting Experience – 

We’ve been mushroom hunting this year. Though sometimes it is difficult to pinpoint the right place and right time, especially in an area that is still somewhat new to us, it has been lovely to have success and bring a bit of the forest  back to grace my kitchen (and our tummies!). Once I have these guys back in my kitchen, I’m still reminded of the feeling I get listening to the birds and scanning the forest floor in anticipation, noticing all of the cool stuff that I don’t always get to when on a “proper” hike.

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I find mushroom hunting is similar to fishing in that, though you might have an idea of what you are going to come out with, there are no guarantees. It is also super-addicting, and I definitely have been experiencing glimpses of the mushroom induced “rhapsody” that David Arora mentions in his book. Morel hunting can really get in your head, if you spend a long time in the “Morel vision” mode that Dr. Weil describes. I personally find foraging to be very rewarding and an experience that allows me to examine my relationship with nature and be even more closely tied to the source of my food.

Morel mushrooms have many subspecies and come in all different shapes, sizes, colors and corresponding micro-environmental preferences. Notably the Morel (Morchella esculenta) Black Morel (Morchella elata & M. angusticeps) and the White Morel (Mochella deliciosa) – and pretty much everything in between have shown up for us this year. I find them to be so beautiful!

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Tread Lightly-

It is worth mentioning the importance of treading lightly when leaving any path in the forest. Leaving the trail disturbs minute and delicate ecosystems and compacts soil and so, should be done conscientiously. As far as the impact of harvesting the mushrooms, in his well-known book All That the Rain Promises and More… by David Arora, the author likens picking mushrooms to picking berries more than harvesting a fish or similar foraging/hunting interaction. The fungal mycelium live underground and are not harmed by collecting mushrooms, if the hunt is done in a low-impact way. One of the ways we can decrease the impact is by always using a mesh bag when collecting, this can be anything from a hairnet to a cheesecloth or muslin bag or a specialized other netted bag for mushroom hunting purposes. This helps the mushrooms spread their spores through the forest and helps to ensure that the patch will persist into the future. Of course, persistence is good for both the mushrooms and their foragers!

Fresh morels should be stored in paper bags and immediately before use, rinsed in cool, salt water, then cooked thoroughly – everything I’ve seen discourages from eating morels raw or even undercooked.

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We have gotten lucky this year and I’ve gotten a chance to explore methods of preserving our Morels in a few different ways:

Dehydrated Morels- basic, easy to do now and work with later:

Slice and lay mushrooms flat on dehydrator trays and use a mid-level heat setting. They can also be threaded on a string and air dried if your ambient humidity is low enough.

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Morels slow-roasted on low temperature (250) in oil, wine, garlic, vinegar and salt. This is not a quick and easy recipe. This is a genuine slow-food style super-powerful and rich condiment that you bust out for special occasions  -like as a topping our friend Jason’s pizza or as a part of a pasta or soup, on top of steaks or burgers, alongside chicken or salad,  on top of yogurt cheese or almond cheese – many possibilities with this and it is simple once you get it going. The idea of preserving them this way, is to replace the water in the mushrooms with things that deter microbes, like alcohol, salt and vinegar. I plan on keeping this in my fridge for several months. I think it will also work well to freeze or even can.

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Another technique I’ve been using this year is took cook up several recipes using morels and then freeze the whole thing for a ‘heat and eat’ gourmet dinner whenever I need the convenience either after a long work day or even on a road/camping trip.I tend to primarily cook morels, with their versatile and wonderful umami flavor, in a Mediterranean-inspired style

I tend to primarily cook morels, with their versatile and wonderful umami flavor, in a Mediterranean-inspired style.

Details on cooking more of this year’s favorite morel are coming soon, can be made for carnivores or vegans and include:

Morel Risotto and Stuffed Morels

Has your foraging experience impacted your land ethic? Your relationship with gratitude and greed? What is your favorite method for preserving mushrooms? Please share in the comments below –

With Gratitude- especially to Shane McFarland for always helping to clean up the mess I make!

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