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.