Morel Magic

Morels are popping up at EEC Forest Stewardship. We’ve been blessed by these wonderful mushroom friends over the years in springtime. What a marvelous signal of returning warmth and sun for the growing season. Abundance to all in this time of regeneration in living beauty.

The mushrooms are a special treat on the land when they choose to appear. We could claim to cultivate them- but rather than imagining any control over spore production EEC attempts to cultivate place for the mushrooms to thrive, inviting opportunity and intention, rather than production on any measurable industrial scale. After years of inoculation and human subjection of woody debris, we’re starting to just make space for the mycology to arrive, but not by force. We simply pile up debris and add a few other amendments to the soil and imagine possibility. Cardboard is pulp wood, mostly poplar, and that’s the best partner to host morels. I hypothesize that the morel spores are in the pulp and that’s how they are sewn into the land here. I literally take produce cardboard boxes, fill them with sod, and then, as they break down through the winter, I sprinkle out wood ash from the stove into the mix. NOTE- we do not burn glazed paper or trash in our stove- that’s apparently a thing in many places. Our wood ash might be acting as a burn signal to the mushroom spore, which loves to bloom in recent forest fire landscapes.

Morels can be commercially produced, but they are usually small. Our mushrooms come in all shapes and sizes, but tend too be larger than the ones commercially grown, but probably far less numerous. Hey, getting a few nice hand fulls out of passive cultivation is already such a gift. If we continue to build the habitat and spread wood ash, I’m confidant the morel will continue to appear as welcome surprises across the landscape. My partner and I love to celebrate living within thirty feet of morels. This year we’ve planted blue elderberry to companion in with native pacific crabapple, lavender, a cultivar crab apple, and cultivar currents. It’s an island of food production right out our front door, and will continue to enrich the ecosystem with fruit, blossoms, soil building, and morels as we add more cardboard, compost, wood ash, and other plantings as the companions evolve.

Morels are prized by many, not just humans. Slugs, pill bugs, and rodents smell out these treasures and begin feasting as soon as they find. As we harvest, many of the caps show sign of predation, but the mycological taste is so primo, we’re happy to “share” the flavor. Always cook your fungus, as you never know who might have been climbing on them before you picked. Inspect the inside of the caps for hidden insects like slugs or pill bugs. You don’t want a stowaway in the meal. Since the entire mushroom is hollow, I cut them in half- they then cook more evenly in the pan. Start with just the mushrooms in the skillet (cast iron), then, after you cook some of the water out, and the cell walls of the mushroom get soft and more transparent, add oil (butter) and brown the morels to taste. I like mine a little crisp. Try a mushroom without any added flavors to experience the full taste of your morel. If you like salt, add to taste. These mushrooms pair well with pasta and white sauce, stir fries, anything really. Morels also stand alone, and make a great meal in themselves. However you enjoy, morels will always offer a special treat from the soil for all.

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