The Morel of the Story…

A.V. Walters–

We found another one! So now you see why morel mushrooms are safer to eat than most. They're so distinct looking, it would be hard to pick them wrong.

We found another one! So now you see why morel mushrooms are safer to eat than most. They’re so distinct looking, it would be hard to pick them wrong.

I am a middle child. What pleases me, may not be what pleases others. Middle children learn to like what they have—and not too visibly—or their older siblings will take that, too.

When I picked the property, I knew that it, too, was an odd duck. The “back forty” is too steep to develop or farm. Only the forest holds those steep, glacial sands to the planet. The front “panhandle” is slightly sloping down to the road, which was the reason for including it in the parcel. The property needed road access. Across the road is the swamp. At the low end, the swamp end, the soil won’t perc, so you cannot build there. It’s lovely bottomland, but it’s also the low spot where one can expect killing frosts. A neighbor planted fruit trees down there, and didn’t understand why, after a few years, they all died. Wet feet. The water table is so high that the poor trees literally drowned

The sellers waxed philosophic about the beauty, the views, the “potential.” They were realtors, had any of that been true, they’d have kept it. Not that there aren’t views, especially up on the hills, especially in the winter, when the leaves are gone. But you cannot build to take advantage of those views because the steep hills (and winter conditions) preclude any possibility of a road or driveway. The property is beautiful—it’s just not marketable for development. Oh, and the sellers told us, there were mushrooms.

Until last year, I’d never seen any mushrooms. Morels have a short season and, though I’d been here in May, I never saw them. Last year, I saw a bunch of them. They were in a plastic bag, dangling from the waistband of a mushroom poacher who was walking our south ridge. We ran the poachers off—but the morels went with them. I didn’t have the fortitude or attitude to demand that they surrender their bounty.

This year we’ve been regularly stalking our slopes, eyes glued to the ground. (So much for the view.) It’s been a dry spring, and cool, so much so that the leaf litter has been crunchy underfoot. Morels like warm and wet. We searched and searched to no avail. My sister, 150 miles south of here, went morel hunting several weekends in a row and found hundreds. She told me I just didn’t know how to look. Over and over again, she said, “You have to get low, they’re tough to see.” They are. And, they are especially difficult to see when they aren’t there.

This past week, we’ve had heavy rains. So, despite the fact that the season is technically over, Rick and I went for a last stroll to check for “shrooms.” We also figured we could harvest some wild leeks, “les ramps” to the gourmet crowd. For best flavor, you harvest them late—just as their leaves yellow. We weren’t twenty steps into the forest when Rick found the first mushroom—right in the middle of the path! We spent an hour or so—poking around, digging ramps and collecting beautiful morels. There weren’t many mushrooms, enough for a wonderful dinner. We had sautéed wild leeks and morels over penne—with thyme, and just enough goat yogurt for creaminess and tang. It was a feast for kings—as good as any served in this foodie-snob restaurant capital.

Maybe we’ll get an extended season. This will guarantee a few more hikes into the back forty, even though we’re really busy. Not bad for a couple of middle kids.

Sorry, no pics. We were so excited that we ate the evidence.

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