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DRIFTWOOD OUTDOORS: Morel mushrooms one of nature's great treasures

Brandon Butler, bbutler@driftwoodoutdoors.com
Morel mushrooms, which are only available to find for a short time each spring, are one of nature's great treasures.

Sitting here staring out the window at a creek flowing over its banks, I could be sad all the best fishing rivers are blown out. Instead, I am giddy with excitement. The sun is supposed to shine this weekend, which should make morel mushrooms jump out of the ground. Fresh fried crappie, roasted wild turkey and sautéed morels as a meal is about to be reality again.

There are few simple pleasures in life I enjoy more than a leisurely walk in the woods. Whether it be shooting a traditional bow, looking for shed antlers, scouting a new place to hunt or listening for turkeys, I love time spent in the outdoors without constraint. I guess that makes me a wanderer. Yet, nothing draws me to want to walk around aimlessly more so than morel mushroom hunting.

Each year, I write a column about hunting for morels. When you’ve been cranking out outdoor columns each week for nearly two decades, it’s hard not to repeat writing about the same pursuits annually. This year I’m not going to get into the tips on where to look or what experts say about soil temperatures and the like. I just want to tell you about why I love mushroom hunting so much.

Just last week, I watched little kids hunt for Easter Eggs. Inside each egg they found was a prize. I did this when I was a kid. You likely did too. There’s something ingrained in our psyche about picking up a shiny object, about finding a treasure. Morels are the Easter Egg hunt for people like me. They are also the treasure. You can only find them for a short period of time each year. It’s sort of like a holiday season that comes and goes. You build up with anticipation, experience the event, revel in the afterglow, and then let it pass until next year.

All of this is ultimately because morels taste so good. The hunt is fun, but eating them is the point. You might disagree, but for those of us who like mushrooms, the rich, nutty, buttery taste of a perfectly sautéed morel is unlike anything you can buy in a store. Thankfully, as far as I know, no one has been able to successfully create a commercially grown market for morels. I hope they never do. You have to put in the work and have a little luck to claim this prize.

Twice now, I have mentioned sautéed mushrooms. That’s how I like them. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat morels any way they are presented, but I feel like to experience the full flavor, you wash and rinse, melt real butter in a skillet on medium heat and slowly cook the mushrooms until they are just right. Sprinkle on a little salt, and eat them alone. One by one. Taking the time to chew slowly and savor every delicious second.

Two years ago, while I was turkey hunting in early May, I stumbled onto the largest mother lode I have ever seen. I found so many, I had to make two trips. The haul covered the top of a 6 foot long rectangular table stacked two on top of each other with mushrooms. I ate like a king for a week. I even gave a few away. But then wised up and came up with a good idea for the rest. I pureed them and froze the liquefied morels. Throughout the year, I made morel mushroom soup and a morel mushroom gravy. Do you get the picture on how much I love these gifts for the Earth?

I am certainly not alone. Mushroom hunters are a growing breed. If you’ve never done it before, but I have piqued your interest with this article, then go out and give it a try. You can hunt mushrooms on public lands all around you. National Forest, state owned lands and parks all offer plenty of place to find yourself a nice haul. Look along waterways and beside dead trees. Carry a nice walking stick to help you poke and peek around, and be sure to spray down with good tick replant. Other than that, just lace up your hiking boots and get out there.

See you down the trail…

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