Finding the Famous Morel
Spring is here – the weather is unpredictable – 70 degrees one day and 40 the next yet this is the only time of the year for the infamous mushroom – the Morel.
If you like to hunt or you would just rather eat them, your timing is critical. The Morel (Morchella – scientific name) hunting season can start anytime from early to mid-March and run into late June. Unfortunately the date of the first sighting in your area can vary by several weeks each year, so you can’t count on finding them using the date your marked on your calendar last year. The key is to have a week or so with daytime temperatures in the 60’s and the night time temperatures in the upper 40’s. It is at this time the ground temperature reaches the low to mid 50’s which is the optimum growing conditions for morels. Some rain to moisten the soil is required but it’s a myth that you need the sun to really “pop” them. Some of the most productive seasons have been cloudy, rainy springs.
Once you find a spot, its game on. But have you noticed how hard it is to find that first mushroom yet after finding it you start seeing more of them? Many mushroom hunters leave the first one in place while they search all around it for others. Whether they know it or not, they are training their eyes and brain to block out the background and detect the mushrooms hidden within the brush and leaves. This is called imprinting. So in essence, it’s easy to walk past several until you find that first ones so don’t give up.
Every morel hunter has a creed – never give up the location of your hunting grounds so finding a productive spot can be a challenge. If you aren’t one of the lucky ones to have a designated spot, there are two proven hunting methods available that can produce a nice batch of “shrooms”. Hunting the trees is a method used by avid hunters. The dead elm is a favorite, but many swear by hickory, ash or sycamore trees. According to these hunters,” find the tree, find the mushroom.” Almost all hunters will also agree that old apple orchards produce morels so if you’re lucky enough to find an area with old apple trees, check it out often. The second method is hunting the “lay of the land”. This strategy is to hunt the south and southwest sides of hills. These areas get more of the early spring sun warming the ground to the optimum growing temperature and therefore producing the first morels of the season. Last but not least, hunters look in the depressions, washouts, run-offs and small ravines within the woods. The theory is that morel spores carried by the wind and rain are deposited in these areas.
If you are fortunate enough and get yourself a “big mess”, make sure to cut each mushroom in half and soak overnight in the refrigerator. It’s always best to make sure you have a nice salty mixture to soak them in to get out all the hidden creatures and bugs. You might be surprised what crawls out (yuk!). Once you have soaked your batch, rinse them well. You then can roll them in flour and fry. Some hunters like to use cornmeal but either way, you are in for a treat.
Happy hunting folks!
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Recipe for Rivertown White Wine and Morel Mushroom Sauce by Sherry Cable Culinary Artisan Lanthier Winery
In a medium sauce pan, melt butter on low heat.
Add flour, whisk together to create a rue.
Add Lanthier Winery Rivertown White wine gradually until desired consistency is reached.
Mix in beef stock and peppercorns, set aside.
Sauté mushrooms in a small frying pan until well cooked.
Combine with sauce mixture and serve over steak.
Mix mushrooms and sauce.