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Saturday, April 18, 2015


I was starting to think maybe morel mushrooms weren't real. I was just the victim of an elaborate hoax. But I was at it again. I went last week, got nothing. When I emailed Greg about coming down to his place near Freeman, MO again, he said yeah, go ahead, a lady came by Tuesday and got a bunch.

I was jealous. I had scoured those woods for three hours Sunday for nothing, someone came two days later and got a bunch? Those are supposed to be my mushrooms! Though really, I guess, they're Greg's mushrooms, it's his 80 acres and if he was really into them he wouldn't let any of us go tramping through his woods harvesting them.

My xB doesn't have the traction or ground clearance for Greg's driveway so I park by the entrance to his spread and walk in. As I'm walking up the grass, I spot a morel. Four morels actually, right there in the freaking grass, not even in the woods. I let out a shriek.

My first morel. Ever. I'd never even eaten one to know if they were worth the bother, but here I'd finally found one. I think between last year and this, I spent eight or ten hours in the woods scouring for these before I found one. Could it possibly be worth it?

An SUV pulled up the drive and I thought it was Greg's roommate. Looked about right for what I remembered the last time I met him.

I passed Greg's old van and went down an area he indicated last week he's found them before and got nothing. But then, the lady from Tuesday might have beat me to them.

Walking along a little further, gunshots rang out. This is the country, so I didn't hit the dirt and cover my head the way I would if I'd heard this exact burst of shots in the city, but you have to respect gunfire. Way the world is, it's never entirely impossible some lunatic is trying to kill you, right? I doubted anyone was trying to kill me but I still wanted to know the source and direction of the fire. Some clown who didn't know I was there was a far likelier menace, when I thought about it. I called out, 'Did you hit it?' Nothing.

But I had shrooms to hunt. And I already had a few in the bag, so I knew it was possible. I walked on.

Didn't find any. Until I did. I made my way down to the creek that runs through Greg's property, reasoning rightly that it was the best place to find morels there. A voice called out and I jumped more than I did when the barrage of gunfire broke out. It was the guy from the SUV, not Greg's roommate but another friend he'd encouraged to come hunt mushrooms on his place.

I asked him if he was finding any, he said a few. He had a good sized mesh bag already full of mushrooms. Around this time I found a thumb-sized grey, the only solitary I found today. At first, Don was as stand-offish as any other mushroom hunter I've met. Nobody wants to share knowledge, locations, etc. Just as I felt the lady from Tuesday had trampled on my mushroom hunting hopes, Don and I were both interlopers on each other's harvest.

I think when he realized how green I was, and how excited I was to find even a few morels, he started trying to teach me. He'd say, there's one, and another about four feet away. And I'd look for a minute before I spotted them. I can tell it's a skill you develop, and Don allowed that he's 64, and I think he's been foraging for shrooms since he was nine. Meaning he's been getting morels longer than I've been alive.

I found a few more along the creek, then we started checking other places, areas where there were old trees, dead trees, half dead trees. Elms, sycamore, ash, promising trees. Areas where the sunlight is filtered just enough to allow warmth. Yeah, not so much.

Don saw my Garden of Eden bumper sticker and came back after he'd left to talk to me about that and folk art in general.

At some point I decided to quit looking. My hips and knees hurt, I'd spent another three hours tromping through the woods. But at least I had some morels.

I brought them home, washed them, saute├ęd them in a little butter with garlic, salt and pepper. And wow.

Before I cooked them, I put them on our postal scale, it was 7.6 ounces of mushrooms total.

Work out the price for that, if you count my failed trips, probably 13 hours or so for just under a half a pound.

Yeah, I'm hooked. They're not just pretty good. Meaty texture, earthy, delicate flavor, I gotta go back out and find me more of these.

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