Friday, May 29, 2009

Morel and Asparagus Hunting!

Several weeks ago, I went morel hunting with my parents in the woods behind their house, who live in an undisclosed Midwestern state. You see, as a morel huntsman, I must keep my hunting grounds secret, for fear you will find it and eat all of them.

Morels are an incredibly delicious (and pricey) mushroom. They pop up in mid-spring and can be found in woods across the country and beyond. They are popular in Illinois and several nearby states. There are all sorts of tips on where you can find them with varying degrees of usefulness. I've had success looking near dead or dying elm trees. This year, a pile of dead trees was the most plentiful spot.

This was my second year hunting. It was fun, but there didn't seem to be as many as last year. There's an exhilaration to wandering around the woods searching for the evening's meal. There aren't really any poisonous mushrooms that look much like morels, but a few look close enough so please confirm any finds. Since I waited so long to post this, you'll have to wait until next year for morels. Morels are very identifiable and delicious so I highly recommend trying to hunt them yourself!

For guidance, I used the new book "Edible Wild Mushrooms of Illinois & Surrounding States." One of the authors, Joe McFarland, was at the Urbana Farmer's Market a few weeks ago. He signed my copy with a threat to stay off his morel patch. The book mentions several other tasty looking mushrooms, which I'll have to keep my eye out for.

In the book Omnivore's Dillema, Michael Pollan has an excellent section on morel hunting, so I recommend checking it out! You should actually read the entire book while you're at it.

I fried some morels with an experimental batter, but it didn't turn out good enough to post. I brought some home to Susan who fried them deliciously. She will follow up on that one!

My parents and I also stopped by a local farm to hunt some asparagus. Since it was in a field of asparagus, it was much easier to find than the morels. I still can't get over how asparagus looks while it grows. It just sticks out of the ground! Hilarious! Asparagus takes several years to establish itself, so we don't get the joy of growing it ourselves since we garden in a rented plot at a community park. However, as soon as we have our own spot of land we will definitely grow this awesomely delicious veggie.