I don’t quite have the words to capture the magic I feel in this place. Particularly in this rainy spring weather. The birds in chorus. The forest full with fresh greens. Moss covered trees. Fungi on everything. Damp bark, the clean, fresh air. Little tree frogs. Red tailed squirrels. A white tail frolicking away from us. The energy of trees that are hundreds of years old. The view of the river bluffs carved from the same glacier that made the ole Mississippi.
I’m at my dad’s (no longer working) farm, that has been in our family for almost 200 years. The farm land (consisting of corn and soybeans as crops) was sold a few years ago. What’s left? 150 acres of woods, creeks, ponds, and furry friends!
An atmosphere perfect for foraging morels. Morel mushrooms are incredibly good tasting mushrooms that can’t be cultivated. They (seemingly) just grow at random during the Spring. They are native to the midwest– and they are fabulously yummy. I’ve only come down to the farm maybe twice before during this time of year. I remember coming as a kid, and being very disappointed in the process. My husband has a joke he loves to say, “Alexandra vs nature”– well imagine a young kid version of this. Bugs? Cold? Rain? Looking in dirt? Yeah not so ideal. But adult Alexandra, while still hating insects in my space, handles all of this much better. And in fact, I kinda love it!
Walking in the woods, listening to the birds, the crunch of the branches beneath my feet. It is very much a magical, meditative experience.
Then comes the actual search process. This is the part I am learning I am not so good at. I thought being so distinctive, I would have no trouble with this. Pattern recognition is my jam. Well, finding them is a pretty random game. There needs to be some sunlight, so that the land isn’t too moist. And they tend to be close to elm trees, but not necessarily directly under them. Lots of rain seems to help them to pop up, too.
I’m embarrassed that my initial thoughts made me feel like I was in a real life version of Zelda. Searching for any oddities or things out of place. I felt like I was pretty good at that. I found a tree frog, countless spiders, a deer antler, various other types of fungi, deer fur, and more. But the morels… a bit tougher. I found the first one of the trip, but my beginners luck ended there. The thrill of finding one is addictive. It feels like finding gold–nature’s gold, that is!
My dad really seems to have a knack for it. Miraculously, on day 2, my dad found the hot spot of all hot spots. We found an area with about 100 morels! It was like hitting the jackpot. So so satisfying, everywhere we turned we could find one! So satisfying.
This is beyond farm to table. This is natural food, uncultivated, just created because mother nature is incredible, then foraged and immediately put on the table. I’m beginning to understand the appeal of hunting. I’m much happier with being the gatherer in the hunter-gathering scenario though! 😅
I’m so thankful for the experience: for the connection to the land and my food! “Morel” of the story: I came back after 3 days having a much deeper appreciation for all that our mother earth provides for us! -AHS
How to Prepare morels
In terms of preparation- simpler is better! My step mom lightly breads them and fries them. A delicious option if you are into crunch! After cleaning them thoroughly (and I mean thoroughly!!!) I prepared them in a large pan. I heated them and let them release their water for a few minutes. With some of the mushroom juice still available I added several pads of butter, and white wine! They pair beautifully with pasta, steak, or even a burger!