Terry’s Take: Morels, America’s Mushroom!
I grew up hunting them as a kid. Battling ticks, sticker bushes, and other assorted hazards of the wild, my quest was America’s mushroom, otherwise known as the morel. It may be because they’re widespread, they’re easy to identify, or free for the taking, but if you ask most people the reason they hunt is simply for the taste. When cooked properly, morels are a delicacy so craved they sell for up to $20 a pound in grocery stores.
Found in much of the U.S. from late March through May, the morel is usually plentiful. It has colorful names based on color or appearance such as Molly Moocher, Miracle, Dryland Fish, or Hickory Chickens—but mostly, people just call them “mushrooms” and it’s understood that means “morels.” Their flavor is variously described as fishy, smoky, earthy, delicate, and nutty.
The morel mushroom, like other mushrooms, is the fruit of a type of fungi, some of which are edible and others of which are poisonous. In addition, there are a variety of mushrooms that are called false morels because they are frequently mistaken for the morel mushroom. These two factors point towards the need for caution and expert advice if one embarks on the hunt for morels in the wild.
The morel mushroom can range in size from two inches to 12 inches tall. They are found in several different habitats, including river bottoms, moist woodlands, old orchards, and some in forests of conifers. The ground surrounding dead elms has always been a productive spot for me. The unique make-up of morels makes them a species that is not farmed commercially and that also makes them expensive.
When it comes to eating morels, my favorite way is my moms recipe which has been handed down for generations. You dip the cleaned mushroom in an egg milk batter and then roll it in crushed Waverly Waffers. Drop it into a pot of hot vegetable oil and watch them sizzle for a couple of minutes. When they are golden brown remove and drain on a paper towel with a pinch of salt. From here insert into mouth and savor. They are soooooo good!