What CAN you eat off the ground?

Forest Fire Fruit: Morels!

Morels, with their buddy thyme.
Morels, with their buddy thyme.

I was lucky enough to score some wild-foraged morels from my friend Tesia, after she came back from a good weekend of collecting them. Apparently, her s.o. even maps out last year’s forest fires to track where good spots to find some morel treasure. It definitely peaked my interest, especially after a stint earlier in the year at a local community garden prepping for summer, when we found a morel poking out through the cardboard laid over a garden patch for winter. No- I didn’t eat it, my fellow volunteers warned me it was ‘a city mushroom,’ with unknown consequences. Even NPR did a segment on it.

From Northern California to Alaska, commercial and amateur mushroom hunters will be scouring hills that were ravaged by fires last summer and fall. Their prey? Morel mushrooms.
“Sometimes we call it ‘chasing the burns,’ ” mushroom enthusiast Kevin Sadlier says, in search of the black morel mushrooms that grow in the springtime after a forest fire.
After Fires In West, Mushroom Hunters ‘Chase The Burn’

Apologies, much of the ingredients are amounts “to taste,” and I was trying to track too many things so don’t have any exact times on here. The Serious Eats article did not specify times either.

Now, a rare medium on this blog thus far: a video.*

Ingredients:
Morels from your friend, the mushroom-gatherer (or from your friend at the farmer’s market)
1/2 onion, minced (alternatives: garlic, shallots, minced)
High heat oil for pan
Butter, about 1 pat
soy sauce, 1 Tbs (or less, to taste)
lemon juice, 1 tsp (to taste)
chicken stock, 1 Tbs (or less, to taste)
optional: chives, minced
salt & pepper, to taste

Optional but very useful supply:

pastry brush (or in my case, an extra toothbrush from my travels, because my pastry brush is silicone and the bristles would have been too big)

Steps:

  1. Check out Serious Eats’ How To, on Morels to clean mushrooms -thoroughly (also see video far below)!
  2. Once you’ve gotten over that, heat high heat oil on high, begin searing mushrooms.
  3. Add onions, lower heat to prevent scorching.
  4. Add butter, stir.
  5. Add soy sauce, lemon juice, and chicken stock
  6. Lastly, add optional chives, and salt and pepper to taste.


Today’s Trial Ingredient Rating:

Novelty Rating: 5 of 5 O_M_G, so novel! I was looking forward to this experiment all day before I got to run home and try it out. Bonus points for finding a use for an extra hotel toothbrush.
Likelihood of Repeat: 30% Maybe if I spot some that are pre-cleaned at a farmer’s market, but otherwise, it was way more trouble to clean them than I was into, and my final product was not as delicious to me as the serious Eats article’s pictures implied.
Lessons Learned: Oh so many..
Forest fires bear fruit!
This is not a vegan food, see video below.
Lots of prep time cleaning and brush and freaking out quietly
Don’t underestimate these Pacific Northwesterners and their mild climate, some of them are hardy enough to go through all that morel-cleaning and still stomach the mushrooms.
If you think you’ll have hesitant diners, trying the morels 20+ minutes beforehand will allow you to guarantee that any food poisoning will likely hit you first, and you can be their canary.**
Unanticipated travel benefits: hotel toothbrushes can double as mushroom brushes.
Oh, and don’t forget about the bok choy you may have started steaming earlier or it’ll go grey…

One more video, on cleaning morels:
Hopefully you will find this one amusing. Not a video for the squeamish.*

*Apologies for the Bourne Identity-style shaky cam. Next time will be better.
**Don’t worry, my guinea pig friends also got a healthy slice of strawberry rhubarb pie, made to spec per Smitten Kitchen, except the tapioca I didn’t have on hand.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie: the before picture, because I didn't snap one of after that didn't already have a piece cut out.
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie: the before picture, because I didn’t snap one of after that didn’t already have a piece cut out. Ok, I admit, I cheated on the crust.

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