Photo courtesy of Ohio Department of
Natural Resources

In years past, I’ve come across nice patches of morels in our woods at the end of May and into June. They seem to respond to a good dose of rain, and a few days after a storm they’ll be popping up through the duff. Word came through the grapevine a week ago that they were out, so I took a long trek through the hardwoods looking for these choice mushrooms. They weren’t showing in any of the places I’d found them before, so I tried to cover as much ground as possible, concentrating on hardwood slopes facing east. As I walk, I can see approximately 15 feet of forest floor in either direction, so unless I zig-zag relentlessly through the woods, my 30 foot swath covers only a tiny portion of the available territory. Finding a patch then requires quite a bit of good fortune because they could be anywhere.

Two walks a couple of days apart produced nothing, though the dog and I both valued the exercise. Then, on a beastly hot day not long after, I was off on a birding hike of my woods with Vermont Audubon‘s Steve Hagenbuch. Vermont Audubon has a great program where they help landowners evaluate their land as habitat for birds. A walk with a good birder is such a treat, and as we were listening to a hermit thrush and an ovenbird, I came upon 4 morels in an unlikely place, scattered in a patch of almost pure hemlock. Two of them were huge, the largest I’ve ever seen. Which didn’t bother me until I happened to mention those two facts to a mushroom-loving friend, that they were found in hemlocks and they were huge.

“Hmmm,” was all she said.

Morels are the one mushroom that I know for certain. They are undeniably phallic, they are hollow, and their tops look like brain matter. I couldn’t be wrong. But I have to admit that my friend’s “Hmmm” made me wonder if my wife and I were going to die from eating some previously undocumented huge faux-morels.

I remained confident, they were delicious, and we’re still here. And you can bet I’ll go back to the hemlocks next time I’m looking for morels.

Sautéed Morel Mushrooms
1/2 lb fresh morel
1 tablespoon butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon white wine
salt and pepper, to taste

Sauté garlic until soft in butter.
Add mushrooms and sauté for 2-3 minutes, constantly stirring.
Add broth and wine and cook another 2-3 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste.


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