April Showers Bring May Morels
Unfortunately, we didn’t have many warm showers this April. The cold weather lingered for almost a month longer than last spring, while precipitation levels were lower all winter. With the weather a little too cold and a little too dry for ideal morel-popping conditions, this year’s morel haul (above) has been disappointingly paltry compared to last year’s bounty (below).
Morel foraging is hard work. H., P., and I left Ames at dawn, and spent six long hours tramping through forest-land dense with thorny gooseberry bushes, poison ivy, and spiky locust trees. Much of that time was spent stooped over, either to peer beneath the leafy undergrowth, or because the tree branches didn’t allow enough room for us to stand upright. Thank goodness H. had packed hearty sandwiches to fuel our long “walk,” which more often felt like a wrestling match with sharp branches and constricting vines. H. had layered Iowa prosciutto with provolone cheese and pickled cherry pepper slices on chewy baguette. The salty, cured meat and zing of the peppers invigorated us, and kept us foraging long after the realization that this year’s outing would not be as rewarding as last year’s.
We divvied up our small stash, each of us taking a third of the day’s haul home. This was generous on H. and P.’s part, since I had found the fewest mushrooms. Even though our find was limited, it was still worth the scratches and bruises to taste the morel’s unique flavor again. I kept things simple, cooking the mushrooms in a bit of butter and then sharing them with the Midwestern Gentleman, who missed the foraging party because he had to work over the weekend.
Simple Buttered Morels
1 1/2 to 2 cups morel mushrooms
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1 clove garlic
freshly cracked black pepper
Clean the morels and slice them lengthwise. If desired, dredge the mushrooms in a bit of seasoned flour. Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Chop the garlic and add to the butter in the pan. Carefully place the morels in the frying pan in a single layer, and cook for about 10 minutes, flipping them over halfway through cooking. Lay the mushrooms out on paper towels, uncoated brown paper bags, or coffee filters to drain a bit of the fat off. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.