This weekend the husband and I went hunting….for mushrooms! Sounds kind of dangerous doesn’t it? It’s really not. It’s basically walking around a park staring at the ground for hours looking for mushrooms. Not just any mushroom of course (we’re not crazy!), but the prized Morel mushroom. Morel’s are special because they can’t be farmed. If you look online, you’ll see you can buy an 8 ounce bag of morels for 80 bucks. Oh and they’ll be dried if you buy them online. So, they’re pretty pricey!
Prior to our Portland trip, I’m not even sure I knew what a morel was. The only mushroom I’m confident in pointing out is a white button mushroom, oh and a portabella, that one’s pretty obvious too. All the others might as well be the same thing because I have no clue if you can eat them or what they are. I like mushrooms, I’m just usually too cheap to explore the exotics they sell in stores like Whole Foods.
My husband’s older brother and his wife are really into mushroom hunting. They have all the books and can tell you the name of a mushroom and if it’s edible just by looking at it. My husband went hunting with his brother for morels when we were visiting. They didn’t find any, so I still wasn’t convinced this was a “fun” thing to do. While we were there, we also looked up information on Cleveland. It made a lot of different lists, usually in the top ten “worst weather” or “worst cities to live in” lists. The outlook was not good. But it did make one positive list and that was being a good place to mushroom hunt, especially for morels. So, we got that goin’ for us.
Last weekend we set out on our first mushroom hunting adventure. Morel season (in the midwest) is usually from April through June (if you’re lucky). If you read the Omnivore’s Dilemma, you may remember Michael Pollan hunting for mushrooms…those mushrooms were morels. He was hunting after a wildfire which is definitely a good time. You can’t exactly rely on a wildfire though, so luckily, after a rainstorm is also a good time to go.
We found mushrooms, but no morels. Mushrooms are pretty cool in general once you stop to look at them. Usually, they’re stepped on or just passed by because a lot of the time, they’re well camouflaged. A lot of the mushrooms we found were growing on wood from dead trees.
I have no idea what these mushrooms are. We just looked at them, we did not take any with us. That’s one thing that’s pretty clear: if you don’t know what it is, leave it! Definitely do not eat it! Some of these mushrooms will literally kill you if not make you very sick. Not all of them make you hallucinate so don’t get too excited.
Morel’s tend to grow near dying Elm tree’s so we tried to search around them.
Still no morels….but we did see a few snakes! Just Garden snakes though so no worries.
This past weekend we went out again, this time at a different location. My husband was walking in front of me and I was just staring into space which happened to be on the ground when I noticed I was looking at a morel. We found them! We found around 7 or 8 on Saturday and we were so excited we went again yesterday and found more! Better looking ones too!
Here’s one from Saturday:
Once we found one, we started looking around and seeing the other ones. We were so excited! Like my husband said, it’s basically an Easter egg hunt for adults…except no clues…and no guarantee you’ll find the eggs. But we found them!
Here’s some from Sunday:
They’re so weird looking aren’t they? They look like little brains on a stem.
We took the morels home and washed them pretty well with cold water. We sliced them in half and rinsed them again. There are very tiny bugs inside the mushroom so we tried to clean them out. Nothing too scary though.
Saturday night, we cooked our morels with some leftover fresh pasta we bought from the West Side Market.
We wanted to really taste the morels so we just sauteed them with a little olive oil.
There was some major mushroom shrinkage goin’ on!
Last night we also cooked up some morels. We had them with wild boar sausage and leftover pasta.
Morels have great flavor! They also have a really good, meaty texture. They have a mushroom flavor but it’s not quite as strong as other mushrooms. My husband really liked the texture because it was a little tougher and less rubbery than other mushrooms.
I know there’s good morel hunting in the midwest and also in the pacific northwest. If you have parks nearby or know where there are Elm trees, you should give it a try! It’s more addicting then you think….