Friday, April 27, 2012

Morels ~ A Northwest Delicacy

This has been a week of morel foraging in our neck of the woods.  I wanted to make a note here to myself to mark the date of the first harvest of the season, this is our first year ever picking morels, our neighbors hunt for them every year and they've shown me what they look like.  Over the years I've read about them and looked at pictures, and have hunted for them on our property, I wanted to find some but had no success except for one time, I found one.  Morels are kind of a mystery, where they will grow, and what conditions they will grow in, they are one of the only mushrooms that are not cultivatable, they need a perfect growing condition of  rain and sun.  Here in the Northwest we are one of the mycological capitols of the world with our rainy climate, many mushrooms grow and  thrive here, especially in the Spring and Fall.

One of our goals in becoming more self sufficient as a family is to learn all about foraging around where we live.  I want to learn to hunt morels in the Spring and chanterelles in the Fall, these are yearly Northwest harvests I want to participate in.  We have so many mushrooms on our property and it would be fun to learn more about them,  either I would need to have someone from the mycological society come out to identify them for me, or I will join the mycological society and go on their walks and learn.  Even if I only know a few mushrooms, it's something fun and free to look forward to each year.  I already know how to identify both morels and chanterelles, as they are some of the more easily identifiable mushrooms.

My youngest daughter Kaley and I went morel hunting the other day, I knew they were ripe when I saw a couple by the entrance to our driveway, as it turned out there was a whole little grove of them right near us,  hidden in the woods coming up under the leaves of alder trees, with fir trees nearby.  They seem to like it where there are lots of leaves and the sun can filter through a little.  It was like an Easter egg hunt, we were so excited as we found one after another, and would exclaim everytime we found one, I found one!!  I found one!! 

From what I've read about morels you want to eat them right away, within a day or two or dehydrate them, you also want to clean them really well.  We cleaned them by filling a bowl with warm water and added a teaspoon of salt, swished them around and then rinsed them in fresh water until it came clean, about 4 times.  You don't eat the stems just the mushroom end, we cut off all the stems and discarded them.  To dry them, we put them in a salad spinner, and then laid them on a clean towel and rolled it up softly to get them good and dry.  Some we dehydrated right away, and the rest we sauteed in butter and garlic and had good bread to eat with them,  along with penne noodles and marinara sauce, it was a delicious meal!

April through June is the season for morels in the Northwest, so there is still plenty of time to hunt for them this Spring.  I know we'll be going out again to see if we can find more of these mysterious and nutrious mushrooms.  Mushrooms that in the gourmet world are a true delicacy!

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