Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dry Land Fish

We enjoy mushrooms and I have often wanted to learn more about them in a dilettante mycologist fashion (and yet I fear the inevitable "faux" look-alike that seems to occur throughout the species). Here in Kentucky, many of the locals forage for morel mushrooms in the spring when the forests are still wet with layers of rotted leaf mulch and dappled with patches of sun. They apparently come out before and during our wildflower season and well before the trees have leafed out. [Photo, above, from The Great Morel website.]

One of our sons has a friend over today and his father is a morel hunter as well as a 'sanger in the autumn months (a vernacular term for one who harvests ginseng). Both require tracking, a good sense of the landscape, and a few well-kept, secret places.

The Great Morel website says:
Typically (morels) are found in moist areas, around dying or dead elm trees, sycamore and ash trees, old apple orchards, maybe even in your own back yard. Ground cover varies and it is very likely that each patch of mushrooms you come across may be growing in totally different conditions. It is a common practice of shroomers to hit their favorite spots year after year.
I asked Gabe, almost eight and already a seasoned morel tracker with his dad, about them and he said, "Oh, you mean 'land fish'?"

How soon I had forgotten the term (morels are commonly known around here as dry land fish).

"Oh yeah, that's the name. What do you do with them?"

"Well, we dredge them in a bit of flour and fry them in butter."

Yum, I thought while imagining them in a quiche with perhaps a gouda cheese, or grilled in butter and slathered on steak, quarts of canned morel mushroom soup, perhaps freezing and drying some. But all of that is like counting your chickens, I suppose, as I have yet to even see a morel in the woods and haven't been looking yet, either. [And speaking of chickens...update photos to follow! They are now three weeks old and huge.]

"Where do they grow?"

"Well, they don't like pine trees and you need a lot of woods." [I thought that might explain why I hadn't heard about them much, or ever seen them, in New Hampshire--too many pine trees in the woods there.]

"Does your dad ever sell them?" my mouth already watering for a good morel omelet.

"No, they never last that long!"

Here is a cute clip of a boy from Kentucky with some of his morel finds from 2008 -- you can also find other morel-related clips on YouTube.

On return from a Cupcake trip to Asheville, this chain-saw gnome was waiting for me, a surprise from my gnome-tolerant husband. Made by a local artisan on a neighboring ridge, he now graces the front door of the double-wide.

So, I'm going to have to track some morel mushrooms. (I expect the gnomes know where they are, but aren't telling.) The woods are awakening now with all of the glorious wild flora that is just poking up. I've seen May apples, the red bud is at its peak, the dogwood is just beginning (and we had our first "Dogwood Winter" last week), and today I will see if the wild miniature iris are up on one of our bankings when I go out to photograph after a week of cold rain and storms. Soon the trillium and other woodland delights will be carpeting the forests and roadsides. Spring in Kentucky, if you can dodge the wind and occasional tornado (and yesterday we did just that), is truly spectacular and prolonged.

Happy Easter and Happy Passover to you all!



I splurged on this freestanding planter, made of vines and sturdy twigs, at a nearby greenhouse. By the end of the summer, ivy should be trailing all up and into it. And yes, it's a display area for a growing collection of gnomes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very charming read, thanks. Was just browsing information on dry land fish. Love the planter btw, beautiful, i'm jealous, lol