"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Good Year for Wild Edibles?

We managed another quick trip into the woods to hunt for mushrooms, one that proved much more fruitful then our last. In a little over an hour we were able to come up with just over 30 fine morels before being chased away by a windy rainstorm. One never wants to be caught in the mountains of northern Idaho in a spring windstorm, especially when not prepared for such an event. Normally, at the very least, we bring our smallest chainsaw with to cut away any downed trees that might fall across the road...we neglected to do so on this trip and were forced to beat a hasty retreat.

This Calypso orchid, also known as the "fairy slipper," was named after the sea nymph Calypso. According to Greek mythology this daughter of Atlas lived a solitary life on the island of Ogygia in the Ionian Sea and made life very interesting for certain sailors who washed up on her shores.

This orchid with it's vanilla scent and intricate design is one of my favorite flowers and a tell-tale sign that morels are in the area. It apparently has developed a sort of relationship with various fungi and shares the nutrients provided to both from the trees in old growth forests. Only having one leaf it cannot readily photosynthesize by itself and uses certain fungi as a host.

Some of the mushrooms we came across were not of the edible sort, like this deadly Gyromitra esculenta, Conifer False Morel also called "Beefsteak" or "Brain Morel". This little guy contains compounds similar to those used to manufacture rocket fuel...not good to eat, although some people do as the chemical concentrations differ depending upon where it is located...I'll pass.

And these Snow Bank Morels? Apparently delicious. Or are they Gabled False Morels (poisonous), they look so similar one has to examine the spores to tell the difference...these are not for me either.

I'm not sure what this one is.

We dried a few of the mushrooms to be savored at a later date and the rest were fried with onions, garlic, and potatoes...a most delicious topping for an evening salad. I hope our good luck with morels today is a sign of things to come as we spend the warm months gathering various wild edibles.


Kelsie said...

Are (real) morels really hollow-ish inside? I ask because last year, here in Western Kentucky, a metric crap-ton of very morel-like mushrooms sprouted in the overgrown yard of the abandoned house next door. My boyfriend and I freaked out and raced out to pick them all before they were taken by someone else. We had several gourmet restaurants offering to buy them from us, when I started to wonder if maybe this was all too good to be true. I decided that we actually had false morels (because they were very meaty inside), and we threw them all away. Now, looking at your photo of false morels, I wonder if we didn't actually have the real thing. The mushrooms we found had holes in them, just like real morels. The only difference seemed to be that everything I've read says false morels are not hollow, and real morels are. Is there any truth to this?

Mr. H said...

Hi Kelsi,

Wow, I wish I could have seen those. You have to be extremely careful with mushrooms, so positive identification is a must. Yes, the true morels are totally hollow inside, not meaty.

There is a look alike called Verpa bohemica some refer to as the "Early morel" that is most easily mistaken for true morels. It has a wispy cotton interior and is not really hollow inside. Some other look alikes can have small cavities inside but are also not totally hollow like a true morel.

If they come up again this year send me a picture and I would be more then happy to help you identify it.


Silke said...

Oh, I wish we had morel mushrooms here. Maybe we do and we just haven't found any yet. Yours look delicious and it's great that you found enough to eat and dry. Happy eating! :)

Mr. H said...

Hi Silke,

I know that in some parts of Georgia morels are found in April and May, I'm not sure about Savannah. It is really neat that your family was into hunting for wild edibles when you were a child.

I spent many summers as a child learning about the various plants and berries in our area from my grandmother...but unfortunately nothing about mushrooms.

Keep looking, you will find some.


Stefaneener said...

Oh wow. What a bounty. My sister would be right there with you.

Glad I happened along!

Mr. H said...

Hi Stefaneener,

We are having the best luck so far this year. We found over 100 more yesterday...more then all of last year(last year was a terrible year for morels).:)

Leigh said...

I so envy your shrooms - beautiful haul! Our morels are not yet out, but soon...

Mr. H said...

Hi Leigh,

This year is shaping up to be a really good one for morels. I hope they do well in your area as well. We look forward to May all year long for just this reason.:)

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