I LOVE morels! With the odd weather this year, I expect morels to pop up early this year. We have a pear tree flowering in our backyard so I wouldn’t be surprised if the morels are up very soon. I think they actually pop up after the group reaches a certain temperature for a certain amount of time in the spring…. but as a kid I thought they came up under may apples. I would look under all the may apple plants searching every time we went out.
Searching for morels was a spring activity for everyone in our family every year! All of my aunts for sure had their secret spots (they still do), and we all would track where the mushrooms were found last year to know where to search next year. Every possible story was followed, including making sure to pinch the mushrooms off so that the stems were left in case that would cause more to grow. We would find them growing in our large yard also and my mother would insist no one mow during the whole mushroom season. My parents would push sticks into the ground near each mushroom to see if they would grow larger. As the season went on, sticks would mark spots in our yard and we would have daily trips out walking through the wood to find morels. Dinner every night included mushrooms, and there was always a bowl of salt water in the fridge with mushrooms to get the bugs out before washing and cutting up the mushrooms.
My aunts, uncles, and cousins that lived in the non rural areas would all come visit and we would visit the not so secret spots. The mushrooms marked in the yard were saved for little kids to have some mushrooms that were easy to find – Almost like mushroom hunting training! Some of the spots were easier to walk through and access, some tougher, and some led to discussions with trespassers who were found sneaking onto our property.
One year while taking my middle son who was probably about five, my mother had told him that the land would one day be his. Shortly after they ran into people that had trespassed to come hunt on our land…. My middle son proceeded to confront them….. luckily it turned out OK, but that usually doesn’t go well. My father has confronted people in the past that have told him they had the owners permission to be there. I always have to wonder if they are that bold or just that confused about whose property they are on.
People go through extreme measures to keep their spots hidden. Long before I got my drivers license, my aunt would give me her car to drive and have me drop her at her mushroom spot with instructions when to come back and get her. She would hike in to her mushroom spot, but didn’t want anyone to know where the entry spot was. Luckily living on a farm I learned to drive really early!
To cook the mushrooms, we usually just roll them in flower and fry them in butter a little salt and pepper. My mother would first dip them in egg if she wanted to stretch the amount of mushrooms. I’ve tried to reproduce them, but mine never come out the same as my mothers. – Of course I’m sure I’m using a little healthier oil and probably less salt for sure….. My family still eats them. Every year we start with just a few for the first meal, and then eat more the next meal….. According to family stories anyone can be fine one year and allergic the next, so start small. There are also some people that are allergic their first try, so anyone having them the first time, we just let have a few…. Also from the same family stories. My mother tells about being pregnant with me, and my grandfather Richter refusing to let her eat morels, just in case.
Personally I love them though! My husband doesn’t seem to like them, which for me just means MORE for me! Two years ago during a mushroom hunt our family got our first pet tree frog. We now have our toad, but mushrooms are completely to blame for the fire bellied toad in our house.