Once upon a time, I was hiking with a couple of friends through an old hemlock forest in the Appalachian mountains. Appalachia used to be a lot less forested than its current state, and it is riddled with old homesteads, so much so that you can be 20 kilometers from civilization and stumble across a patch of tulips. After spending a few minutes scratching your head, you will spot the remains of a stone foundation, perhaps an old hearth, and you will realise that, at one time, this was someone’s farm.
Well, my friends and I stumbled upon an ancient graveyard that day, one with head and foot stones so worn by time that only a few were legible. The dates were from the 1800′s, which may not seem a lot to those of you in older countries, but is certainly respectable for the US.
As we meandered through the cemetery in respectful silence, I came across a large patch of the most coveted edible mushroom in the eastern United States: the morel. Morels are a popular forage food here, and are rumored to be the most delicious wild mushroom (except for the truffle, of course, but you need a pig to find those).
“Oh, oh my,” I said, in some distress, “Do you think that I should collect these?”
My friends were concerned, mainly because the patch was right over the grave of a Revolutionary War soldier, “I don’t know…isn’t that kind of cannibalism?” they queried.
With a twinkle in my eye, I responded, “No, you’re right. I wouldn’t want you to think that I was morel-ly questionable.”
“No, no…we wouldn’t question your morals, it’s just that–”
“No! Guys. Morel-ly questionable? Come on.”
“Face it, I’m hilarious.”
Well, guess what? I just found another big old patch of morels. Happily, they were on the edge of a babbling brook instead of in a cemetery this time, so they are edible! Exhausted by the “im-morel-ity” of the campaign season in the US, I was happy to focus on a different sort of morel.
What's this? Aha, I see you there, you sneaky bugger! Morel (Morchella esculenta)
I rinse them but some people would call me heretical. Aren't they prettier than a truffle?
Sliced and extracted any arthropod friends.
Lightly sauteed in just the smallest amount of olive oil and a bare dusting of salt. Nothing else is needed!
I use them to make delicious omelettes, but there are many things you can do! Check out this website for lots of morel advice: thegreatmorel.com.
PS. Please do not eat wild mushrooms unless you are 100% confident as to their identity, or you know someone who can confidently ID them and you trust them with your life. Morels are among the safest wild mushrooms, but please be careful!