If there’s one thing I was always taught growing up it was to never, under any circumstances, pick a wild mushroom. Growing rogue in the ground with no establishment to fully declare them safe to eat, those seemingly poisonous funghi were too foreign to me to ever entertain as a possible side dish. And I’ll admit that I was still skeptical when my good friend Justin, The Bar Chef, invited me to come foraging with him in a very secret spot near our town. He spoke of these Morels as though they were little bits of buried treasure peeking their heads up out of the ground, tempting and delicious and valued at $60/lb. I couldn’t say no to that adventure so we scheduled an early morning in May traveled to our (did I mention secret?) location to begin searching for our bounty. With locally roasted coffee in hand, of course.
As I wandered the woods, I though to myself “$60 a pound? For mushrooms?” Ok, so before this foraging expedition I had never eaten a Morel. I wasn’t aware of it’s amazing, subtle and Earthy qualities. I love mushrooms, I really do – of all sorts. Even truffles, which I know can run as much as hundreds per pound. But it seemed insane to me that something growing practically right in my backyard for anyone to enjoy would be valued at such a high price.
It was really a fantastic day. Peaceful, quiet, calming. There were no cell phones, no cars, no distractions. We focused on the search and that was all. When I found my first one, it was almost majestic. It was really hard to believe how camouflaged they become! Yet once you found one, there were sure to be more nearby.
After hours of searching the woods I started to think that $60/lb was a bargain for these mushrooms. Even though they are in fact delicious, it’s the rare nature of their growth and the commitment it requires to forage them that drives the price through the roof. Morels bloom and grow for only a 2 week span every year before they are gone. In our area, they grow near the base of tulip poplars and are incredibly difficult to see among their surroundings. It takes dedication and patience to collect enough for even one meal – and you can only do it for a short window of time each year. Something about that makes me love them even more – their temporary existence and urgency to enjoy them while you can. Learning about Morels was a great experience in understanding my local area and this little hidden gem that grows only a few miles from my house.
I’m so grateful to Justin for inviting me to discover Morels with him! And what’s even more exciting is the recipes we will share using these little treasures on both the plate and in the glass. Soon to post will be a spring-inspired plate (just in the nick of time, as summer is officially only 4 days away!) and a cocktail pairing perfect for a meal with morels playing a leading role (and no, for those wondering, there will not be morels in the actual drink. ew!).