Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Elusive Morel

When morel season is in full swing it is hard to think about anything else. My mind is constantly grinding away trying to think of areas I could scour for just a few more for the pot. Needless to say I have no trouble finding Morchella conica which favor fruiting in previously burned areas out west, but the one that constantly has me stumped is the elusive Morchella esculenta. This is the big yellow colored morel that most people think of when you speak of morels.

This mushroom is not so elusive in the midwest and even eastern U.S. but out here, it is much harder to locate. I used to find a few (maybe 10 or so) under the cottonwood trees on my property in Montana but to find them in the riparian areas along the western rivers is much harder because now you're dealing with private property and either getting permission to scout someone's property, or else you need a drift boat and good oarsman to navigate the river and cruise the banks stopping to pick along the way and always staying below the high water mark in order to remain legal. The problem with the second scenario is the fact that when Morchella esculenta are fruiting in the late spring in Montana, the snowmelt and runoff are in full swing and the river is usually too high and far too dangerous to attempt floating.

I have found scads of them on my family's property in Pennsylvania where they prefer old apple orchards and woods with dead or dying elm trees. They are also widely associated with maple, ash, poplar, cherry and an assortment of other trees but they will fruit prolifically around dying trees, their last attempt to prolificate or become extinct. They love disturbed areas and will grow in places unimaginable to those picking them with what seems like no rhyme or reason to the where and why.

There are certain wild flowers that can be used as indicators for timing morel fruiting. In the Rocky Mountain west, the calypso orchid and glacier lily are often in bloom at the same time or close to the same as Morchella elata (black morel). In Oregon, a good indicator is flowering Oregon grape.

I guess part of the attraction to these honeycombed fungi is the difficulty factor in finding them and the sheer size of them which can be downright huge. These are the perfect receptacle for stuffing so hopefully some recipes will follow in the coming posts.


Jon Roth said...

Mary, I found your blog from your comment to Lang on FoTL. I really like the photography in your posts and have added you to my RSS and blogroll. Looks great!

ladyflyfsh said...

Thanks Jon and welcome aboard!