Monday, May 11, 2009

The Taste of Spring

SodaBoy and I went mushroom hunting this weekend, to a place I had collected morels last year while delineating wetlands. It is a very remote place, accessed by turning off a rural country road onto a seasonal dirt lane that looks more like an ATV trail. Of course we saw wildflowers:

Canada violet, Viola canadensis

However, I stepped out of character and didn't photograph many. The blackflies were just too damn vigorous. Whenever I stopped and crouched in the shrubbery, I got bled. I knew how bad the bugs would be, from my stint there last year, so I insisted SodaBoy wear my headnet. I did fieldwork in Minnesota after all; my tolerance for such things is higher than most. He was skeptical at first but easily convinced by the swarms.

When we got to the spot where I'd collected the morels last year, we didn't find any, but kept looking. It is such a remote area I wasn't 100% sure we were in the exact same place. We kept thinking, they could be anywhere. Then we found something else, not the yellow morels I've collected in the past, but a different species of morel altogether: half free morels. Apparently these are also known affectionately as peckerheads.

I always slice morels in half before cleaning them, as it makes them easier to clean. With all the rain we've had recently, though, this batch was very fresh: only two slugs in the whole lot. The other benefit of slicing them in half is you can see inside the stem to better verify that it hollow. This is quite important, as morels should always have a hollow stem. There is a species of false morel that is superficially similar to the peckerheads, but it has cottony white fibers inside the stem (among other differences).

After I rinse morels, I always soak them for a while. This helps loosen up any dried soil or sand particles. Some people soak them in salt water, as it helps kill any remaining insects, but I rarely add much. I am afraid of over-salting and ruining the fine flavor. After their swim, I rinse the morels one last time, then pat them with a clean dish towel to soak up some of the water. I sauteed these ones with butter and garlic. While the pasta was cooking, I wilted fresh local spinach into the mushroom-garlic mix.

And for once I managed to snap a photo before we devoured them.


Hugh said...

Mmmmm, peckerheads.

Great pose, SodaBoy.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

mmmm, peckerheads? Yeah, I guess so. Good, anyway! Nice headnet! Nice Canada violet!

Momma Val said...

Those look very delicious!

Nadine said...

It's a good thing I just ate a giant bowl of delicious salad because your finished product looks so yummy I can barely stand it.

Aliki2006 said...

I'm not even a huge mushroom fan but those made my mouth water!

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

I want one of those playes, yum!

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

oops, that should say plates--of food I mean.

BrightenedBoy said...

Those look good.