Although we may still see a frost or two, spring has finally sprung here in northern Idaho. Our most favorite thing to do this time of year is forage for morel mushrooms!
I'm thrilled to share our morel excitement with you (and I hope it's contagious) plus give you ideas for eating and preserving morels — but let's get two items of caution out of the way first. 🙂
First, I am not trying to scare you off foraging but rather to make sure you're aware of the vital importance of proper identification!
Many plants and mushrooms have an “evil twin” — a look-alike that's either toxic, poisonous or deadly. So it's very important to forage with care and knowledge, and to be absolutely sure in your identification. You can do this through informative books or perhaps online or local classes. However, my best recommendation is to begin foraging with someone knowledgeable. No matter what, you want to be absolutely certain you're finding the benevolent (the right) version of each plant.
And second, be sure to forage edibles away from roadways. Often, sprays or toxins are used on roadways and these may also land on the wild plants nearby. Stearing clear of these traffic areas will net you fresh, pure, and healthy wild edibles.
And with those warnings out of the way, a wonderful bounty awaits!
The Joy of the Hunt
Not only do we get to feast on tasty morels at the end of the day, we also enjoy the hunt — very much. It's addicting and our eyes actually get sore focusing on the forest floor. Who wants to leave even one behind? On a good day, a little friendly family competition inevitably develops — to see who can get the most.
The “Steak of the Wild”
Have you hunted or tasted morels? If not, you've been missing out on something truly amazing.
Finding morels is like finding gold. We nicknamed them “Steak of the Wild”.
Although their unique webbing makes them look fragile, once seasoned with homemade seasoning salt and garlic powder and fried in some butter or coconut oil, you get a hearty bite with intense flavor. Fried morels create a lot of their own juice. I drain the excess juices out of the skillet and fry them for a few more minutes — to crisp them up.
(Similarly, this is how Wardee fries foraged chanterelle mushrooms.)
Morels are available for such a short time each year, so no matter how busy we may be, we prioritize at least one or two full days out looking for these lovelies! And it's worth it — not only are they tasty, but they're nutritious, too. Morels offer vitamin D, iron and B vitamins. And don't forget about the great exercise you get while hunting them!
If you are fortunate enough to find morels in abundance, they can be preserved through freezing, dehydrating, and drying. Unfortunately, canning is not an option and here's why.
When cooking morel mushrooms, they release toxic hydrozines into the air, which disperses them. But if canned, these toxins would remain in the jar and go back into the mushrooms, creating a form of botulism. A poundage or temperature has not yet been found that would eliminate this problem — so it is highly recommended NOT to can morel mushrooms.
We have never foraged enough at one time that we were left with extras, but friends have and this is how they freeze the excess.
Clean the morels, slice them in half from top to bottom and roll in flour. Then place them in a freezer bag or freezer container. (Or they can be placed on a cookie sheet to freeze individually on a cookie sheet first.) The flour keeps them from sticking together.
Our same friends also recommend dipping the sliced morels in egg, then rolling in flour, and frying them in a skillet with coconut oil or butter and seasonings. Once cooked, remove from the skillet and cool. Then put in a freezer container or bag to freeze. These are easy to reheat and enjoy.
Dehydrating and Drying
You could string morels by the stem for easy drying — or place in your dehydrator or solar oven for easy dehydrating.
Here's my recommendation for rehydrating. Place the mushrooms in half and half or milk of your choice. Once rehydrated, fry the morels in a skillet with coconut oil or butter (save the milk) and season with salt, pepper, and garlic. Instead of straining the excess liquid in the skillet, I would suggest keeping it for flavoring. Also, now add back the milk used for soaking and make a creamy sauce with your favorite thickener (flour, arrowroot, etc.).
Have you foraged morels? Please share your tips on how to eat them or preserve them! What else do you forage in spring?
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