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Morel Mystique: Morel season reaching its climax after wet spring boosted growth in area woodlands

By Ben Moyer 5 min read
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Morels appear at this time of year, and earlier, in woodlands throughout the region. Most enthusiasts enjoy them prepared simply 无毛视频 fried in butter or with scrambled eggs.
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The writer无毛视频檚 granddaughter found and cut this morel recently in the Fayette County mountains. She proclaimed the taste of butter-fried morels 无毛视频渁wesome.无毛视频

It无毛视频檚 been a rainy spring. And while rained-out schedules are a downer, all the dampness has its upside. Many folks in this region report 无毛视频 or is brag a better word? 无毛视频 it无毛视频檚 been a good spring for morels.

Around here, morels are 无毛视频渁 thing.无毛视频 It无毛视频檚 amusing to me, in a good way, that, lately, the first words uttered in happenstance encounters with so many people I know have been: 无毛视频淔inding any mushrooms?无毛视频

At this time of year, at least, 无毛视频渕ushrooms无毛视频 translates to morels.

Morels need no introduction among the community of wild-food foragers. But for those uninitiated, morels are the strangely structured fruiting body of a wild fungus that grows in woodlands across roughly the northern third of the United States (and in Europe), especially Appalachia, the upper Midwest, and the Pacific Northwest. Morels are basically a ridged and pitted cone perched atop a hollow stem. They are hollow inside and the outer flesh is firm in the hand, yet easily 无毛视频渃rushable.无毛视频 Some irreverent individuals have described them as a 无毛视频渃ar wash sponge on a stick.无毛视频

The morel fungus likes woodland slopes rich in organic matter, on sites that are somewhat damper than the general surroundings. Its fruiting body, which is the part of the fungus people know as the morel, juts out from among fallen leaves and wildflowers in the spring. Then, for a couple of fevered weeks in late April and early May, many avid 无毛视频渟hroomers无毛视频 forsake all other hobbies, diversions, bad habits, and sometimes work and family obligations to seek them out.

Flavor partly explains the morel无毛视频檚 cult status. Nothing else tastes like a morel. The savory essence of morels is hard to describe. They无毛视频檙e meaty, earthy, and rich, with a mysterious wildness that no other food conveys. They无毛视频檙e simply delicious.

And that无毛视频檚 just the taste. The texture is just as unusual 无毛视频 pleasantly chewy, but still yielding to the tooth. Something like 无毛视频 well, I can无毛视频檛 think of anything that compares.

I like to pair them with a deer steak. It just seems like the right thing to do.

But never eat them raw. Always cook morels and any wild edible fungi.

Besides the pleasure of eating them, morel popularity is ritual. Finding, cooking, and eating them is an annual rite that connects people to land and place, to the natural cycle of seasons.

They bring out good in people too. I was working on a project with some friends about a week ago, along a dirt road deep in the woods. A pickup truck pulled up and stopped. A young man got out and asked me if I liked morels.

无毛视频淲ho doesn无毛视频檛?无毛视频 I replied.

无毛视频淚 just found a big mess and I have more than I need,无毛视频 he said. 无毛视频淗ere, enjoy these.无毛视频

This smiling stranger handed me a bread bag with a dozen nice specimens, got in his truck and drove away. In our contemporary suspicious and sometimes antagonistic society, the encounter felt strange, but refreshing and welcome.

Soon after that I enjoyed taking my 8-year-old granddaughter out to look for morels. We无毛视频檇 gone a few times in recent years but had no luck on those outings. So, she无毛视频檇 heard a lot about the culture of morels but had not actually plucked one from the wild.

Plucked is a poor word. You should cut morels off at the base with a sharp knife.

We hadn无毛视频檛 searched long when we found a batch of big morels growing close together. It was a classic scene for her to observe. She无毛视频檇 know what to look for from that moment on. I gave her the knife and let her cut them. She did the task with care and purpose.

Later, her mom cooked them for her in the best way, simply sauteed in butter, to let their native taste prevail.

Granddaughter called me on the phone to inform me the morels were 无毛视频渁wesome.无毛视频

I felt proud and fulfilled to have shared this tradition, so closely linked with the natural world, with a grandchild.

That sharing closed a generational loop. I was about her age when my grandfather began taking me to hunt morels. That means the ritual of morels runs through at least five generations of our family now. My grandfather called them 无毛视频渕urgles,无毛视频 which appears to be a locally rooted name, which I无毛视频檝e heard nowhere else, and never from younger enthusiasts. He always took me to the north-facing slopes of ridges, places where the afternoon sun never reaches to dry out the soil. There we looked for dead elm trees with the bark sloughing off. That无毛视频檚 where we无毛视频檇 find astonishing lodes.

I recall being amazed at how he could see them, camouflaged among dead leaves in the woods. Before your mind imprints that pitted, ridged surface, you can walk right past morels without noticing them.

He always believed that from about May 4 to May 8 was the best time. But that was a long time ago. Now, everything in nature seems to happen earlier, after our mild winters and warm springs.

Once I was sitting in the woods, in a place I无毛视频檇 never been, trying to call a turkey. Suddenly, I spotted a morel growing about 10 feet away. Once that image registered, I could see maybe two dozen more scattered through the woods nearby. I went back there many times after but never found that abundance again.

Morels are mysterious, elusive, delicious, and fun. They无毛视频檙e something to look forward to every spring, and something to share, across the span of lifetimes.

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