Of course, I’m talking about your first morel mushroom find. You see, I contend that once you discover the challenge and culinary intrigue of finding this elusive little springtime fungi, your life is somehow forever changed.
I’ll admit my first was purely by accident. I was mowing lawn one early spring day and trying to bring the mower up close to a tree in the yard so I didn’t have to trim. Whoa! What the heck is that! There growing an inch or so from the base of a living maple tree was this curious little mushroom I believed I had heard and seen so much about.
I got off the mower and stopped the engine for a closer look. I then ran into the house and started thumbing through my Peterson Field Guide To Mushrooms just to confirm that what I had discovered was, in fact, what I believed it to be. You see, I was always told how the key to discovering morels was to look for them near dead elms with bark sloughing off the trunk. Well, it doesn’t always work out that way.
I was hooked. Problem is when you discover a morel mushroom by accident can you truly claim you found it? I mean, that mushroom clearly found me as much as I can lay claims I found it. Still, a morel in-hand is a beautiful sight. And this admission is coming from someone who absolutely HATES to eat mushrooms.
Years later in my outdoors career I was working for the Minnesota DNR giving an interpretive nature hike at a nearby state park when I had another surprise encounter with morels. This time I advised about a dozen hikers with me to stop where they were walking and not to move (fearing someone might step on the morel before it was detected). It took at least five minutes of ground scrutiny before someone from the group finally discovered the little bugger. I say this because there are times when finding morels can be rather easy…and then there are those times when they disappear like the proverbial “needle in the haystack.”
Recently my wife, the mushroom lover in the family, has been on my case to find her some morels. What has particularly fueled the fire is learning that a neighbor only a few miles away has been finding THIS. So, earlier this evening we set out to find our bounty…er, at least that was the goal.
I’ll be the first to admit I am no expert when it comes to finding morels. The spring time is always a fun time to be hiking the woods, so even on the few times I have claimed to be “looking for morels,” simply observing the spring wildflowers and watching the woods come back to life after a long winter is worth it–mushrooms or no mushrooms.
But on this particular evening my goal was to put a morel into my wife’s hands. We looked and looked until it was almost dark, but then lo and behold this dandy ‘shroom caught our eye. Yeah, we certainly did not hit a bounty on our little morel foraging tromp through the woods…but somehow I sense my wife has now caught the bug to do more “looking” in the coming days.
After all, discovering your first morel mushroom elevates you into a special club of outdoors folks. And if you are a mushroom eating fiend like my wife, then finding your first morel has a very special significance in her life. Indeed, she has now been bitten by the morel bug something bad.
For more information on morels, be sure to check out this podcast I did back in 2007 featuring Ron Spinosa from the Minnesota Mycological Society.
©2012 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.