With Spring comes around in the Midwest, those who know what to look for can hardly wait to get out into the the woods to search for Morel Mushrooms.
The mushroom hunting season is generally between the two weeks before Mother's Day and the two weeks after. Morels like the weather when it starts to warm up after the complete winter thaw. You'll see dozens of cars parked along the side of roads near rivers and woods and you can be nearly certain that the owners are out looking for the tiny gray or yellow wonders.
Morels aren't something you can grow by any gardening or farming techniques. They have to be hunted down, and even the best mushroom hunters can go seasons without a haul. We were lucky enough last summer to happen upon a goldmine of Morels right near Mother's Day.
When you're ready to head out in search of the golden fungi, make sure you're dressed in long pants and a long-sleeved T-shirt to ward off poison ivy and ticks and grab your mesh bag.
Morels grow on south-facing slopes and near elm, maple, and may apple trees. They may not be easy to spot right away, so be prepared to look carefully around the hill sides and in the underbrush. Once you see one, you'll likely happen upon a whole lot more.
Always slice them off at the base with a sharp knife because it is cleaner and it saves time in the cleaning process. Also, slicing them off at the base allows the root system to stay intact and produce more mushrooms in the future!
After you cut the porous jewels out of the earth, carry them in your mesh bag to promote the spreading of more spores for future morel growth.
When you get home, slice the Morels in half lengthwise and make sure their is no dirt on the stalks. Soak them in a bowl of water for several hours to get any dirt off and to wash any small bugs out that might be hiding in the pores.
They are best fresh, but cut and washed mushrooms can be frozen in plastic freezer bags for several months.
When you're ready to cook them up, try our favorite recipe. It's too easy:
-Pour some all-purpose flour onto a plate or into a shallow bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
-Dredge the mushroom halves on both sides in the flour and seasoning mixture.
-Heat up some butter (it's the Midwest after all) in a pan. We like to use our medium cast-iron skillet for these.
-Fry the mushrooms in the hot butter until they're golden brown and a little crispy.
-Put the cooked mushrooms on a plate with a couple paper towels...or directly into your mouth. Careful not to burn your tongue... ;)
There are ton's of other recipes for morels, but we always go with the simple. :)
If you're lucky enough to find some Morels next season, let us know how you cook them!