Saturday, June 4, 2011
Morels in Our Big "Backyard"
When I was growing up on this ranch, it was, "Don't pick the toadstools . . . don't even touch them," and being a dutiful child, I did not. In fact, I barely looked at them, fearing temptation. We know what happened to Snow White with that apple. So, last year when the forester was surveying our land for some tree harvesting (a necessity to keep our timber exemption for tax purposes), and he said, "You know you've got some morels here," I was dumbfounded. "I thought they only grew in the Cascades," I replied. I may not have known what a morel was as a child, but I sure as heck learned about them when I married Jay, a gourmet cook. "I found some on your neighbor's property," he said. So, we poked about the old apple orchard all May of last year, but nary a one did we see. The loggers did their work, plowed trails along the hillsides, cut the big trees, did a bit of clean-up and left. And lo and behold! Where they left their "footprint," there are black morel mushrooms (morchella elata) popping up their delicious little heads, honeycombed with pits and ridges. Ever a careful town-raised child and concerned we might eat false morels and die, Jay emailed photos (whole and sliced) of one of our finds to a mycologist at WSU. His return email, said, "Looks like a black morel to me." And so we've been enjoying them in a wine sauce over grilled sirloin, in scrambled eggs, and tonight in a cream pasta sauce. Optimistic, Jay even bought a dehydrator (we can always use it to dry pear and apple slices). And the morels have kept producing.
Research on the Internet tells us that burn areas and logging sites are great for black morels. We've been very careful not to pull up the roots. The question remains: Will they be there next spring? We aren't finding them anywhere but in disturbed soil. Time will tell. In the meantime - bon appetit!