Something Fishy

Something Fishy
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Monday, April 14, 2014

Morel mushrooms are fun to hunt in spring, and great to eat

Morel mushrooms come in various size, and may be black, brown, white and yellow.

Some people never have heard of morel mushrooms, and many have never hunted or eaten them. They don’t know what they are missing.
From a selfish perspective, it would be just as well if newcomers never tried them. But yes, it would be selfish. There is something wonderful about hunting, and especially, eating them. However, a caution is in order, don’t eat them unless you know for sure what you are eating.
Morels are a sponge type mushroom that is found during the spring. There are several varieties. I hunt and eat ones that are black, white and yellow. There are hundreds of other types that can be found throughout most of the year. Not all are edible and some are poisonous, so make sure you know what you are picking and eating  It is wise to have an experienced morel hunter check your mushrooms, if you have any question about whether they are edible.
Morels start appearing in the southern  U.S. in March and can be found in far northern state until July. However, in this part of the country, they generally are found from late March though mid-May. 
The earliest I have ever found morels is during the last week of March, and that was only a couple time over more than a half century of hunting. But, late March isn’t too early to start looking. The initial hunting can be combined with scouting for turkeys.
The first of the morels to appear are the black variety. They usually are found in deep woods and often initially appear on the southeastern sides of hills where much of the first warm sun strikes.
Morels range from very small to three of four inches tall. Most of the black are a couple inches tall and can be a bit difficult to see among dead leaves and sticks.
Some small white also appear early, but most come a week or so later after the blacks first appear. The yellow sponges usually are the biggest and appear last, usually about mid-May.
The yellow morels often are found at the edge of the woods, in fence rows, and a favorite place to hunt is in an old orchard, especially around apple trees.
Morel mushroom numbers seem to vary widely from year-to-year. They need warm weather and moisture. Often they will appear after a warm rain. followed by sunshine.
My friend Doyle Coultas from Perry County says a winter with considerable snow is good for producing the tasty fungi, so this may be a good year.
When I return home after a successful mushroom hunt, I cut them in two pieces lengthwise. Rinse off any dirt and bugs, and place them in a bowl of salt water. I let them soak in the salty water overnight to kill any bugs missed in rinsing. There will be some. That’s part of mushroom hunting and eating.
When I’m ready to cook them, I rinse them again. Next I roll them in flour, salt and pepper, and place them in a skillet with about a half inch of hot canola oil. However, I cook up several cut up pieces of bacon in the skillet for flavor, before adding the oil. In my opinion, it enhances the flavor.
I cook them until golden brown, then place them on paper towels to drain prior to serving with the rest of the meal. Unfortunately, I seem to sample so many, it’s tough to cook a serving plate full. Don’t put paper towels on top of the fried morels or place them in layers after cooking. It makes them soggy.

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